Campbell River council members are divided when it comes to having food trucks in the downtown core.

On Monday, they voted 4-3 in favour of staff bringing forward options that would allow food trucks to operate more permanently on public property, including within the downtown.

Councillors Ron Kerr, Charlie Cornfield, and Kermit Dahl voted against the recommendation. 

Kerr and Dahl shared the same concern, that food trucks would take business away from small, established restaurants downtown.

Kerr said the summer-long pilot project was a bust. “There was one food truck, part-time, and it was certainly not a test run and the conclusions based on that were not really relevant to the conversation.”

Kerr said a lot of downtown merchants he spoke to in spring were “in opposition to the concept.” 

“Definitely the survey that was done didn’t reflect that and I think part of that is that this concept is staff-driven and the people that are sent out are biased in their attitude towards this project,” he added. 

Kerr said he did his own survey recently and said those he connected with were opposed to the concept.

“I think the recommendations here to propose expanding the program are definitely going to affect the downtown restaurants,” he said. “We’ve got some very good, small restaurants in our downtown core. This is going to be very negative towards them. It is not going to bring in more people.”

He noted that the food truck program is going to take up “prime parking spaces on the streets outside the restaurants which is going to make it harder for people to come and access their restaurants.”

On June 3, the city launched the CR Street Eats Pilot Program for a 12-week duration.

The aim was to test the regulatory framework permitting food trucks to operate on public property downtown. 

Once the pilot program was over, the city staff published two surveys to gather input from the broader community. 

One was directed at downtown businesses to evaluate the overall perception of the program and determine whether there were any associated impacts. 

The other was created to provide the general public with an opportunity to share their perspectives. 

A total of 19 businesses within the downtown completed the CR Street Eats Pilot Program survey. 

Of those, three were from the 14 restaurants within the downtown food truck pilot program boundary. 

All of the survey participants either answered either “yes” or “not opposed” to supporting the presence of food trucks in the downtown. 

The Downtown Restaurant Outreach Staff also conducted phone surveys with 10 of the 11 remaining restaurants that did not complete the online survey.

Among the public, staff received 122 completed surveys: 

  • 86 percent said the presence of mobile vendors changed their experience downtown this summer; 
  • 92 percent visited other stores or engaged in other activities when they visited mobile food vendors; and 
  • 100 percent indicated that they support the presence of food trucks downtown. 

“I think the results and comments coming back from the public and also the vendors and surprisingly even the restaurants that are bricks and mortar were pretty soundly positive. So I appreciate the responses from the public but also those who participated in with it and look forward to continuing to move forward,” Mayor Andy Adams said.