With the price rising to get a food truck permit in areas like City Square Plaza, people looking for an outdoor downtown Regina lunch are noticing less choice this year.
The city raised the price of a permit by $280 to bring it to $1,680 for 2018, which has frustrated operators in the Queen City.
The City of Regina issued four permits in May, compared to six last year during the same month.
The permits allow food trucks to operate in city roads and areas such as the plaza, Northwest Leisure Centre, Sandra Schmirler Leisure Centre and Rambler Park. Ten permits were handed out last summer.
Tim Philp, owner and operator of Nacho Fiesta, said last year was tough for food trucks because of higher taxes for consumers.
“Everybody suffered, restaurants suffered, food trucks suffered so it was a tight year,” he said.
While Philp was leaning towards not renewing the permit and focusing on private events and larger functions, the price increase helped make that
decision even easier.
“It just didn’t really make sense to get the new license when downtown sales aren’t that great,” Philp said.
Events such as the Regina Farmers’ Market have a different permitting system separate from the one issued by the city, with the event in charge of dolling them out to operators.
Philp said those type of events are much more appealing to food trucks than the plaza is during the week.
“Much more pedestrian traffic through the plaza when there’s an event going on like that,” Philp said.
Lindsay Sasseville is the owner of Wok Box in south Regina and the Wok Box 2 Go food truck.
While she did renew her permit this year, Sasseville said she was frustrated the city had not properly communicated with herself and other operators a hike was coming to the permit prices.
“If we’re not told that the prices are going up, we have to come up with more
money that we don’t know where that’s coming from,” Sasseville said.
The city said vendors were told about the change when they applied for their permit this year. The change came into effect August 2017, but did not affect vendors that year.
She said with taxes, it comes to over $1,800 to get a permit and it’s another $1,800 to operate in Wascana Park.
Along with permit costs, food truck operators also need to pay for inspections, such as gas, fire and ventilation.
“All of that has to come out before we even hit the plaza,” Sasseville said.
She noted the current price is too much for operators in Regina, especially when compared to other cities across Canada.
“Look at other cities like Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver and they are all around $800 so why are we paying $1,800?”
Because there are less food truck options on the plaza, Sasseville said there are fewer people walking around it, making her business suffer.
“Because we’re the only truck on the plaza right now, I mean we do OK, but we don’t do the numbers that we used to do,” she said.
She said everyone in the food truck community supports each other and she would rather see 10 trucks out there than none at all.
Sasseville said they’ve approached the city about changing the permits from a one-time fee to paying a smaller charge and then paying for every day they are there.