David Jonasson’s wallet has been hit twice by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Riverton commercial fisher can’t sell his fish anymore because freezers at Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation are full. And as a mobile food truck operator he says he isn’t eligible for a federal loan through the Canada Emergency Business Account because his payroll isn’t high enough.
He’d like to set up his Walleye Wagon food truck in the city but says he can’t afford the roughly $4,000 in licensing fees he’ll need to pay before he can operate.
Food trucks operate as take out restaurants and are allowed to be open during the COVID-19 pandemic in Manitoba as long as they have customers physically distancing, or keeping two metres apart.
Jonasson says he is one of more than a dozen food truck operators who have written to Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman’s office asking the city to waive licensing fees and asking for special permission to set up shop in city-owned parking lots in lieu of festivals and events that have been cancelled.
“It’s very frustrating. Actually, it’s crippling. It’s an awful feeling because you’re so stressed out where you’re going to get money because my bills don’t stop,” Jonasson said Monday.
“Just at least acknowledge us that we’re out there and give us an opportunity to work because that’s all we’re looking for because right now we’re totally forgotten.”
David MacKay is another food truck owner who is calling on the city to waive fees and make special exceptions for operators. The co-owner of Little Bones Wings would like to operate on a soccer pitch in the Garden City area. He’s frantically trying to sell inventory that’s piling up as more events get cancelled.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m sitting on 600 cases of frozen tenders right now. This could be financially devastating. In fact, this could wipe us out if I don’t find a home for these tenders we’re dead period. Game over, close the curtain.”
He said the Winnipeg Folk Festival would normally be a major source of income but because it like so many other events have been cancelled, he won’t have that revenue this year.
Considering delivery, partner options
MacKay is looking to be creative and partner not only with the city but also private businesses who could let his truck set up shop for delivery drivers instead of walk-up customers. He said the idea is that Skip the Dishes or DoorDash drivers would be able to come up to the truck parked on a business’s property and then deliver the food to customers nearby.
He said the business would be paid rent and ideally be in the Garden City or St. James area and have power, refrigeration and freezing capacity.
MacKay is trying to stay positive and thinks if he could partner with the city and private businesses to keep his food truck operation going, it could create a new innovative way of running his operation post-pandemic.
“I’m trying not to think pessimistically. We are getting a lot of interest in our frozen tenders from the public. We’re happy to sell direct to the public at this point.”
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, told reporters Monday because food trucks operate outside, some risk is reduced.
He said customers still need to be two metres apart from one another and there shouldn’t be any seating that’s close together near a truck and said meticulous disinfection is required in addition to the screening of workers and patrons.
City spokesperson Adam Campbell said the city is currently discussing topics related to food trucks and mobile street vendors and will continue to keep stakeholders apprised of any developments. Bowman’s office said it had no announcement regarding food trucks planned on Monday.
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