Victoria’s response to the impact of the pandemic on businesses – the Rebuild Victoria program – has come to an end, and with it mobile food suppliers.
Local donair trolley operator Shawn Fitzgerald said the blow to his business, Donair Dog, was just the latest in a series of blows that have made it difficult for him to stay in business.
Initially, Fitzgerald and his wife Corinne House operated their donair store out of a building in Esquimalt, but just three months after they purchased the business, the building was bought and demolished by the town of Esquimalt.
Cash-strapped and devastated by the loss of a newly acquired location, Fitzgerald and House decided to go mobile. But then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, putting their plans on hold for two years.
In response to the impact of the pandemic on local businesses, the City of Victoria implemented the Rebuild Victoria program, allowing mobile food vendors to obtain temporary permits. However, these were always temporary, and the resumption of business in the pandemic bylaw officially ended on March 31, 2023.
Without new bylaws, those involved in the program could see their licenses expire with no way forward.
“Being told in February that the city wasn’t sure what they were going to do with the Rebuild Victoria plan, we were a little worried about that, and then at the end of February, we were trying to renew our permit and we were told at the time that the city wasn’t going to renew the plan ,” Fitzgerald said.
On March 1, Fitzgerald received a formal letter informing him that the program would end at the end of the month.
“Getting that letter, it’s not only frustrating for us, it’s also very frustrating for people in the community who are used to being able to walk to us,” he said. “Basically, it put us out of business again.”
The letter he received suggested there might be a silver lining — they could visit a website with information on other vending locations.
However, they were given the message that moving the vending machines had to be done on private property with proper zoning, Fitzgerald said.
“Unfortunately for Fairfield, there isn’t a lot of private property that is properly zoned and available for mobile street vending,” Fitzgerald said.
The challenge Fitzgerald faced on his donation car came at a high price. To get all the necessary certifications, he had to pay close to $3,000, not including about $5,000 for the cart.
Still, he said business was good, and he expects things to get better as the weather improves.
“We were very surprised by how well it was doing, and then in the sunny days in late February and early March, business picked up significantly,” he said. “So we’re really excited about going into the summer. I think it’s very doable for us. It’s proven to be very good for the community.”
Fitzgerald’s petition A call for the city to allow compliant street vendors to operate on public property has drawn nearly 1,000 signatures, which he hopes will create awareness of the issue.
While the path forward remains unclear, city spokeswoman Colleen Mycroft said it is “exploring additional mobile vending opportunities through 2023 through special event permits.”
county. Matt Dale, who has voiced support for food suppliers, said city staff are working to replace the bylaw that allows temporary permits, but aren’t sure when that will happen.
Until then, Fitzgerald will run the Beacon Hill Minor League franchise booth at Hollywood Park from this month through June.
“But by July, we were back in the same boat and we had nowhere to go,” Fitzgerald said. “The city basically closed its doors to all of us. They quickly introduced a new bylaw that allowed restaurants and street vendors to stay on extensions of the street terraces – we kind of felt left out. “
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Food and Catering