Victoria places food trucks idea on back burner

Despite the potential to revitalize downtown, initiative to add food vendors well down city priority list

Ramesh Espinoza serves up tacos from his Puerto Vallerta Amigos food truck

Foodies holding out hope for more food trucks in the downtown core will soon have a bad taste in their mouths.

Streetside cuisine is decidedly off the agenda at City Hall, as councillors juggle portfolios ranging from the Johnson Street Bridge to naming rights for the Victoria Conference Centre.

“It just wasn’t seen as a priority by council,” said Coun. Lisa Helps, who has been advocating for licensed public space food trucks for more than a year. “Food carts can enhance the vibrancy of downtown, and goodness knows our downtown could use a dose of vibrancy these days.”

Grab-and-go food options in Vancouver and Calgary have exploded in the past three years, thanks to relaxed municipal licensing inspired by the infamous success of a downtown block of food carts in Portland, Ore.

But Victoria is failing to seize the opportunity of an easy-to-implement revitalization tool for the downtown core, said Ramesh Espinoza, co-owner of Puerto Vallarta Amigos.

His Mexican cuisine food truck is regularly parked in a private lot at Yates and Wharf streets.

“Victoria is one of the cities with more restaurants per capita, but the workforce needs more (affordable) take-out options,” he said. “And a lot of people only have half an hour for lunch.”

Espinoza’s family business was the first of several food trucks to be approved for operation on private property in Victoria, but the bureaucratic red tape made the start-up onerous.

“It took about six months to find a space and get all the permits. No one had dealt with anything like this before,” he said. Victoria’s tourism draw and walkability make it an ideal candidate for streetside fare, Espinoza added.

Helps agreed, but said any movement will have to take place when the dust settles on budgeting and other priorities.

“It’s going to have to wait until the 2014 election,” she said.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

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