Under heavy criticism, Toronto’s ethnic street food program will likely be cancelled by City Hall in a vote next week.
A pilot project started in 2009, the A La Cart program has often been castigated for excessive red tape and overregulation that extends beyond that required by health and safety. Of the twelve vendors originally to take part, four never opened. Only six remain on the streets, with the remaining vendors indicating they are only staying on to hopefully recoup their debts. Former City councillor Joe Patalone called the program “a la Failure” while stumping for mayor last fall.
The city dictated what vendors could serve; each one had to serve a specific healthy, “ethnic” food. Initially, vendors could not display their own signage or even show pictures of their food. The mandatory carts have no roofs, so some vendors invested a further $6,000 to make them so they could operate in snow or rain. Weighing half a short ton, the carts are so large they require 2-3 people to push and must be transported by trailer or flatbed. Smaller and lighter, hot dog carts can simply be towed.
Columnist Chris Selley in The National Post sadly explains further:
All the carts had to be the same, and they cost a mind-boggling $30,000 each because only one company bid on the contract to provide them. No one could own more than one cart. Cart owners had to man their carts personally at least half the time. No one with a hot dog cart could participate unless he abandoned it, meaning — back to the staff report — that “the majority of the vendors selected … did not have directly relevant experience in street food vending and/or business management.”
The program may have a hopeful ending: Councillor Cesar Palacio will motion to lift these restrictions from a la Cart vendors next week as well. More at The Toronto Star and CBC News. Photo by PinkMoose.