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Food fight brewing in Steveston over food trucks

Food trucks are among the many businesses that have been hard hit by the pandemic but they are now running up against new challenges in one Metro Vancouver community.

The City of Richmond is cancelling the licences of a pair of food trucks, Shameless Buns and Salty’s Lobster Shack, that have set up in Steveston on the weekends.

A number of local restaurants have filed complaints about the trucks.

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The operators of Shameless Buns say most businesses in the area like having them there and only a few local merchants are using their influence with city council to revoke the licence.

“This Steveston mafia, as they call it, that likes to strong-arm and bully small businesses — the irony here is we’re all small businesses,” said Matt Brennan of Shameless Buns. “So why are there other small businesses bullying small businesses? Why can’t we all just work together?”

The Steveston Merchants Association says the trucks don’t impact most restaurants, but they do compete against about a half-dozen grab-and-go food outlets.

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“Two of them are very upset,” said Jim Van Der Tas of the Steveston Merchants Association. “They’re at the point of, ‘I’m not sure if I’m going to make it and now you’re going to put a food truck right across the street from me.’”

Brick-and-mortar food outlets have to pay property taxes and utilities year-round while food truck owners pay no property taxes, although they do pay $250 a day to a private property owner for use of a parking lot.

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The City of Richmond says it is aware of a bylaw that prohibits sales on private land.

“The situation is pretty much unprecedented,” said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “What’s the alternative? They shouldn’t have been given a business licence in the first place. They contravene the zoning bylaw and the other bylaws, and so we have to do something about it. It just isn’t fair to others.”

The owners of Shameless Buns say they will refuse to leave and will instead opt for a business licence review hearing next month where they can argue the case.

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