© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Caron Prins sits at a table in front of her chip shack near Founder's Hall. Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
They say you can’t fight city hall, but two food vendors won their battle with Charlottetown city council Friday.
In a special meeting of council called Friday morning, all five city councillors in attendance voted unanimously to rescind a decision made earlier in the week to disallow two food trailers from operating in Charlottetown this summer.
Council has now issued temporary permits to both the Chip Shack on Prince Street and the Big Orange Lunchbox, which wanted to operate a food trailer on University Avenue.
Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee said council is not bowing to public pressure, but rather admitting there is confusion over the issue and how it should have been dealt with.
“I think there was three different sets of rules being applied to these vending shacks,” Lee said.
He acknowledged council received a lot of feedback from the public on the issue.
“Some people will say city council caved in, I’d rather look at it as city council heard what the people had to say and we reacted and gave the citizens what they were looking for.”
Coun. Rob Lantz, chairman of city planning, said council did receive complaints about the two vendors from local restaurant owners, including in the form of a position paper from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. The chairman of this national association is local restaurant owner Liam Dolan.
But Lantz says these complaints were not the reason council initially denied the food vendors permits to operate this summer in Charlottetown.
“That’s been exaggerated a little bit, that kind of influence,” he said.
Council also passed a resolution Friday to review and develop policies for food trailers and vendors on private property, to be in place by March 1, 2015 – in time for next summer’s tourism season.
“There are no certain regulations that deal specifically with food trucks in the zoning and development bylaw and that’s what we need to take care of.”
Public interest in the issue exploded, especially on social media with many people expressing outrage and concern.
News stories on The Guardian’s website registered more than 100 comments each and an online petition started Thursday in support of Caron Prins, owner of the Chip Shack, garnered over 800 signatures by Friday afternoon.
Prins was elated by council's decision Friday and swamped with business from supporters all day.
“My supporters are very excited and I am so blessed to have them, and they’re coming out in truckloads to say congratulations,” Prim said, stopping to hug customers mid-interview.
“I feel extremely loved and grateful, more than anything, because I was the small guy and I didn’t really have a voice until the people backed me and then they had a voice.”
She said council was wrong to tell her she couldn’t open her business, but she is thankful the decision was reversed – thankful mainly to the Islanders who rallied around her.
“Thank you everybody out there. You did the right thing, and I’m so grateful.”
James Oja, owner of the Big Orange Lunchbox, said he too saw this as a victory for the public.
“I love how much the Island supported us in our fight,” Oja said.
“The fact that the people spoke up and said, ‘This isn’t fair, you’re doing something unjust to two business people in Charlottetown,’ and that the city listened to the people makes me respect (city council) a little more, because it means they still will take word from the citizens, which I didn’t think they would anymore.”