By Adam Slight
Tracie Behan is an innovator. Her 48-foot tractor-trailer kitchen-on-wheels is her answer to Ottawa’s otherwise scarce food-truck industry (an industry that thrives in other Canadian cities). It can be said that Tracie is trying to give foodies in the city of Ottawa renewed hope by introducing a new, quirky, and exciting spin on a proven concept.
The Ottawa Citizen reported this week that Tracie invested $200 000 in her own customized kitchen truck (that serves wholesome, fresh meals with local ingredients), with the intention of feeding hungry Ottawans, only to be denied the permits necessary to operate this business by City of Ottawa administration. She quotes the City staff as saying that there wasn’t a “chance in hell” that she was getting the permit.
Seriously City of Ottawa?
I shouldn’t act surprised. I sometimes feel like the biggest obstacle that my own business (Ottawa Rickshaws) faces is indeed the red-tape strung up by the city that most benefits from local enterprise. The permits necessary to putting rickshaws on the road in Ottawa are dizzying (we pay for an operating license, licenses for each vehicle, licenses for each rickshaw runner, and a permit to operate in the Byward Market). We purchase these licenses every year, and every March when we go to City Hall to buy them, the admin staff looks at us like we’re aliens, and then we have to explain the entire licensing procedure to them.
I feel your pain Tracie.
Based on Tracie’s account, it sounds like City officials go into their job every morning with willingly closed minds, ready to shoot down “different” business ideas. It’s like they want Ottawa to maintain its reputation as a boring city.
As an ambassador of Ottawa, I am often embarrassed when a tourist asks me where they can find some “street cuisine” in the Byward Market. “Well, there is a bylaw in the Market against any open flames,” I explain, “But there’s a hot dog stand across from the Parliament Buildings.” I’m embarrassed, because I know you can find gourmet cuisine served from food trucks in Toronto and Vancouver, and its clear that there’s a market for similar food in Ottawa.
Ottawa’s restaurant industry is getting bigger than ever, with more and more diverse and interesting food options being introduced to the city. The next natural step is to open our arms to interesting street cuisine choices (Stuff like Japadogs– Don’t know what Japadogs are? Its probably because you live in Ottawa!).
This is all indicative of a trend of the laziness, maybe contentedness, in many (not ALL) of Ottawa’s small business players. Why else would the city official be so rude to Tracie? This applies to the “brick and mortar” restaurants described in the Citizen article (the restaurants who whine that food trucks are unfair competition for restaurants), the City administrators who lounge in their comfy offices screening phone calls and turning down anything that would require attention, and the local businesses that would much prefer the status quo than accept new ventures that suggest growth, change, and innovation.
That is what Tracie’s endeavor represents: growth, change, and innovation. I encourage Tracie to continue to fight the good fight. All she has to do is make it more work for lazy (and rude!) officials to ignore her than to help her, and she’ll be serving Ottawa delicious meat-loaf sandwiches in no time!
“and every March when we go to City Hall to buy them, the admin staff looks at us like we’re aliens, and then we have to explain the entire licensing procedure to them.”
I think that’s the part I love to hate/regular hate about bureaucracy. ‘I’m doing what you asked me to do, stop pretending this is some ludicrous request and we can get this over with so much faster.’
R1cksh4wz for lyf3!!
Its a pain in the butt! “R1cksh4wz for lyf3!!” <— hilarious!
nailed it, adam. there are more than enough dollars to go around. you can’t walk two feet in toronto without coming upon an eatery despite plenty of street meat options.
we will always welcome healthy food and spirit here in toronto!
DearReader: That really is annoying – especially when you have to go way out of your way to do it. Also, I think I will sign off every post from now on with “R1cksh4wz for lyf3!!”
Lauren: Now now Lauren, you can’t have all the fun.