North Cowichan ponders new rules for mobile food vendors

Food vendors operating in North Cowichan may soon see their business opportunities expand.

Food vendors operating in North Cowichan may soon see their business opportunities expand.

Council decided on March 15 to direct staff to draft bylaws that would more effectively manage mobile food vending in the municipality.

In a report to council, North Cowichan’s community planning coordinator Natasha Horsman said that, currently, zoning in the municipality for mobile vendors falls into the “restaurant” category.

That means that licensed mobile vendors are only allowed to operate at sites where restaurants are a permitted use.

Horsman said that during the last year, North Cowichan has experienced an increase in the number of inquiries from mobile vendors seeking to operate on both private and public property, particularly during the summer months.

“Many food vendors explain that their business model has grown from parking in a fixed spot for longer periods of time, to providing catering services, attending birthday parties, staff parties, retirement parties, block parties, weddings and other events that don’t necessarily occur in a fixed location and that naturally occur outside of areas zoned for restaurant use,” Horsman said.

“Other local governments have developed detailed regulations that define how, when, when and at what cost mobile vendors can operate within their jurisdictions. This ensures that they are provided with some flexibility and that other businesses, residents and staff understand the requirements.”

Now that council has directed staff to update the regulations for mobile food vending in the short term, staff will develop various opportunities for input from stakeholders and the public before making recommendations to council.

Coun. Al Siebring said he believes a review of the regulations governing mobile food vendors is a good idea, but expressed concerns around creating obstacles to non-profit groups who hold hot dog sales and other fundraisers involving food in North Cowichan.

“We’ll look at that [during the process],” Horsman said.