Mobile vendors a part of the landscape

City Hall has new regulations regarding agile entrepreneurs

Kim Zanussi of Twisted Thyme.

Kim Zanussi of Twisted Thyme.

To revisit an issue that was making local news about a year ago, what follows is an update on the topic of mobile vendors in Castlegar.

There’s no argument that consumers vote with their appetites, and the public is likely to favour an increase in dining options. That being allowed for, the welcome acceptance of the enterprises is not universal.

Last year the matter generated attention as some operators of established restaurants expressed opposition to their mobile competitors, citing a different set of regulations giving preferential conditions for the movable outfits.

City hall took the matter to heart. After a good deal of discussion and the receipt of public and business input, the ground rules were adjusted somewhat.

Councillor Dan Rye answered questions on the matter with the benefit of some hindsight.

“We changed the bylaw,” stated Rye in early June. “There are new rates for them (mobile vendors) to pay and there’s a few other stipulations that are in there.

“Mobile vendors used to only have to pay $100 for a licence for the year,” he continued. “Now they have to pay $250.”

There are, as of mid-June, three such vendors: Twisted Thyme near the crest of Sherbico Hill on Columbia Avenue; The Taco Truck, which sets up shop alongside Columbia Avenue near 6th St., and Fresh Tracks, which will apparently operate in various West Kootenay locations including the Sandman Hotel parking lot.

Rossland native Kim Zanussi is happily into her sophomore season at Twisted Thyme.

“It’s been great,” she described on June 17. “We’ve had a lot of happy return customers from last season and a lot of new people coming by. The location’s great, easy to pull in and out of.

“We live in Castlegar and have found it to be an amazing community.”

Hartmut Kaden of the Chameleon Restaurant – 330 Columbia, weighed in with a view from a different vantage point.

“They (mobile vendors) may be an addition for the people who like the fast food take-out, but on the other hand they are competition with existing restaurants,” he said when asked by the Castlegar News.

“We find it a little more difficult with more fast food vendors,” said Kaden on June 17 adding that he feels the established, brick and mortar eateries make a stronger commitment to supporting the community, what with property taxes and year-round service.”

Going back to the matter which came to a head last year, such that city council felt compelled to legislate it, a limit has been installed to control the number of mobile vendors in the city. Councillor Rye explained that the number of mobile vendors may only be 20 per cent of the number of established restaurants.

“Right now we basically have, say, 30 restaurants in town,” he illustrated. “So we can only have six mobile vendors.”