Mobile food vans (commonly known as food trucks) have supposedly been allowed to operate in the City of Yarra since 1 July 2012, yet to date none have been approved by the City of Yarra, despite them operating widely in neighbouring local government areas like Moreland and Darebin. The City of Yarra has conceded that its guidelines may be too strict. Some people consider the current rules to be so strict that they form an defacto ban on trading.

Screen-shot-2013-02-25-at-7.02.02-PM if you want food trucks in the City of Yarra, come to the Fitzroy Town Hall tomorrow

On Tuesday 5 March 2013 (tomorrow) at 6.30pm at the Fitzroy Town Hall, the City of Yarra’s meeting will include a discussion of the issue of food trucks. If you’re in favour of food trucks really being permitted to trade within Yarra, please come to the meeting and make your opinion known.

The operator of two well-known trucks, Beatbox Kitchen (over 19,000 Facebook likes) and Taco Truck (over 28,000 Facebook likes), published the following on Facebook on 21 February:

[D]ear city of Yarra residents, i am sorry to say that the 5 locations that we applied for in the city of yarra have all been rejected. We are not permitted to trade on public or private land nor attend private catering requests. We have been informed by the senior local laws officer that police have been put on alert and are instructed to seize the taco truck if found trading in Yarra. We are still hopeful to resolve a location and the ability to attend pop up events. Thanks to all our customers we really appreciate your patience and understanding. kind regards Raph (Rafael Rashid)

This earned the council lots of new negative publicity. The issue has been developing since Rashid was ejected from Collingwood while trading there in 2011 (before the council had established its legal framework for food trucks).

One of the requirements is that a truck cannot trade within 200m of where an open permanent takeaway business is operating. Being barred from trading within 200m of an established food business seems ridiculous in Fitzroy. People walk further than that for a meal.

Google maps tells me that the distance from my home to the corner of Gertrude and Smith streets is 1.5kms. I walk that all the time. Within dense Fitzroy in particular, this rule (along with not being able to trade in residential areas) may make it impossible to find a location that meets the rules. That makes this rule a ban.

The City of Yarra also allows applicants to only trade from one location. So when it receive an application from Rashid for 5 locations it must have been paralysed with confusion. 5 into 1 does not compute. Computer says no. All 5 of his suggested locations were rejected.

There are some confusing anomalies in the council’s information about food trucks. The issue of vans trading on private property is particularly confusing. In their Guidelines for mobile food vehicles.pdf (324kb) the council says merely ‘Applications for MFV sites on road reserves and private land used for public purposes can be considered.’ But that’s all it says. Where are the actual rules for trucks trading to the public from private property? There don’t seem to be any.

Rashid claims to have been refused permission to trade on private property but two other trucks, Gumbo Kitchen (over 8,000 Facebook likes) and White Guy Cooks Thai (over 2,500 Facebook likes), have been serving the public from the McCoppins bottleshop carpark on Johnston St for months. Are these trucks trading with the approval of the City of Yarra or not? Are trucks allowed to operate on private land or not? It’s not clear.

The City of Yarra website says: ‘If a private event is held on private property, food trucks are still required to have a Statement of Trade for a temporary food premises. The Statement of Trade is a State Government requirement under the Food Act 1984 that is approved by Council.’ That’s completely fucking unhelpful. Rashid also claims to have been refused permission to do private catering on private property. Is this true or not? Is council exceeding its authority here?

Another confusing issue is that of where the registered owner of the vehicle lists as their principle place of residence. The Application for Mobile Food Vehicle (136kb) indicates that applicants must demonstrate ‘Proof of residency within Yarra attached (current utility bill, drivers licence)’. This is ridiculous. It’s a mobile business. It doesn’t matter where the operator lives. If it must be registered to only one person with one home, how can it trade in different areas? How is that trucks can trade in both Moreland and Darebin? Presumably because those councils are less insane and bureaucratically dysfunctional than the City of Yarra.

Some permanent business owners perpetuate a false belief that they own the business of local customers, and claim that food truck are stealing their customers. But they do not own potential customers. Following food trucks on social media and going out to find them is a social activity that many people enjoy, and customers have the power to choose. The rates permanent business pay to council do not buy them customer loyalty. It is not the role of council to guarantee customers to business ratepayers.

The role of the council is confused in relation to food trucks. It operates as a protector of permanent businesses who pay rates to the council, but it is also a supposedly impartial fee for service business whose role is to administer the rules without loyalty to particular clients. You make your application, and if you pass the test you pay your fees and start trading. Council seems to be stuck with this conflict of interest, where it seems to be acting more to discourage food trucks to appease business ratepayers than it is as an impartial administrator.

One Facebook user suggested that the City of Yarra was engaging in unlawful anti-competitive behaviour in making it unnecessarily and unreasonably difficult (compared to Moreland and Darebin) for food truck operators to gain approval to trade. This is an argument that appears to have some merit.

Please join me at the Fitzroy Town Hall on Tuesday evening to protest the council’s failure to approve any food trucks.

if you want food trucks in the City of Yarra, come to the Fitzroy Town Hall tomorrow

4 thoughts on “if you want food trucks in the City of Yarra, come to the Fitzroy Town Hall tomorrow

  • 4 March 2013 at 8:42 am

    It would be interesting to map what locations (if any!) satisfy the City of Yarra’s requirements.

    • 4 March 2013 at 9:40 am

      It would be a blank map at the moment as apparently no locations meet the requirements!

  • 4 March 2013 at 12:08 pm

    There is a kebab van near the corner of Nicholson and Pigdon St up the road towards St Ali North. It is extremely close to two stores that sell Kebabs that are opposite the Empress. It operates from a car wash site. It is ridiculous that the vans can operate on the Moreland Side of Park Street and serve customers in North Carlton but not park on the other side of the road. Good on you for keeping the council on their toes.

  • 4 March 2013 at 3:50 pm

    That kebab van you talk about is operating on private property


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