Various community groups, residents, business owners, and stakeholders came together to look at all sides, pros, cons, and possibilities associated with one issue—mobile vending in Golden.
The Town of Golden, Tourism Golden, Golden Area Initiatives and the Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce welcomed more than 25 people to a Let’s Do Coffee event on Oct. 30 to discuss mobile vending—not only if it is something the town wants, but also what that picture would look like.
“The Town has afforded everyone an active role in public policy,” said Lori Baxendale, president of the Chamber.
“I hope we can do this again for a number of issues,” said Jon Wilsgard, manager of corporate affairs for the Town of Golden.
Right now mobile vending is not permitted in Golden, either on public or private property. (Big Cones Ice Cream, located on private property near the Petro Canada, was grandfathered in).
The issue is being looked at by the Town after it received some attention this summer when Golden Fries, a mobile food vendor who tried to set up in Golden this summer, was unable to do so. They remained in town, and are now working out of the Golden Arena for the winter.
Golden Fries was only able to set up at the Farmers’ Market (an exception within the Town policy), or several kilometres east on Highway 1.
There was a very wide range of opinions expressed. There were some who were excited about the prospect of mobile vendors coming to town, bringing in new products, cuisine, and economic opportunities.
Others were less than thrilled about the idea, suggesting that these vendors would be taking business away from local storefront business owners who pay property taxes, and that there is not a large enough population base support to both mobile and traditional businesses.
The largest group was in the middle, receptive to the prospect of mobile vending, but still wanting to make sure these vendors paid fair share (in business licenses and fees), and that it was properly regulated.
Several people suggested that it could bring in tourism, turning Golden into a “food destination.” It could bring people downtown, and keep them outside and walking around. It was also suggested that these vendors could double as information stands, carrying pamphlets and maps of Golden attractions.
The possibility of new and innovative products was a plus, as some people noted that with a low startup cost (lower than a storefront business), entrepreneurs may be willing to take some bigger risks with their creations.
It was also noted that these vendors would come into town, already having a job. And if things go well, they may one day expand into a storefront.
However, attendees wanted to make sure the Town took several factors into consideration when regulating the practice, including: parking, litter, hours of operation, duration of license, duration in a single location, security and vandalism, number of licenses issued, aesthetic standards, as well as penalties for non-compliance.
Several other municipalities already have mobile vending policies in place that dictate where vendors can set up, how long they can stay, and how much they pay. Invermere, for example, issues four licenses to mobile vendors (the town has four specific sites where they may set up), and they pay a “rent” of $400 a month.