At its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, Kingston City Council voted to approve a new motion, which will allow food trucks operating on Queen’s campus during upcoming Homecoming celebrations to be open for extended hours. The motion, moved by Sydenham District Councillor Conny Glenn, called on the City to waive a section of the City’s business bylaw stipulating hours refreshment vehicles can be open, in order to allow the university’s Alma Mater Society (AMS) to operate food trucks during upcoming events designated under the University District Safety Initiative.
“[The AMS] has been engaging in harm reduction strategies, [and] one of the ones they implemented in the previous year was to have food trucks available so that during Homecoming, anyone who was out at events had the opportunity to get food [and] non-alcoholic beverages, and hopefully reduce the impact,” noted Glenn. In previous years, the vehicles had to shut down by 11 p.m. each night, in accordance with City bylaws.
“The motion is basically to give [Licensing and Enforcement Services] Director [Curtis] Smith the power to extend the hours on the food trucks, [and] if there are other additional food trucks that are participating, to allow them to be in place during Homecoming,” Glenn added before pointing to the potential for harm reduction should Council approve the motion.
“Hopefully, if we do a bit more of this in terms of strategy for Homecoming, we’ll see fewer people in our [hospital] emergency room. We often see people who are highly intoxicated ending up in the emergency room during Homecoming. People have been injured because they’ve over-indulged. This is a measure that will prevent some of that.”
Due to the time-sensitive nature, with Queen’s Homecoming celebrations set for October 20-22, the motion’s seconder, Lakeside District representative Wendy Stephen, noted Council had to move quickly, without the usual recommendations from staff.
“Ordinarily, my understanding is there might be a staff report and some details about this. Because of the timing of the meeting with the AMS, things had to come through a Council motion,” she said.
Before councillors debated the motion as a whole, Stephen put forward an amendment to specify that exempt refreshment vehicles would only be permitted “on Queen’s campus,” saying, “Personally, I would feel a lot more comfortable if this was restricted to Queen’s University campus. I know the idea is that we’re trying to help disperse and spread out students; however, I’m not sure that having them in the community neighbourhoods is going to achieve that.”
In response to a question from Williamsville District Councillor Vincent Cinanni, Smith explained that ,without Stephen’s amendment, staff would be considering food truck locations not only on campus but in other spots as well, including Victoria Park and City Park.
“Those were the two that really popped into our mind when we first discussed this,” Smith noted.
The City’s Commissioner of Community Services, Paige Agnew, said staff have been working with the AMS and other student associations to “mitigate any type of health risks” associated with Homecoming and other fall events.
“If there’s going to be events where students are imbibing and attending social events where there’s alcohol or other things consumed, it is safer, in terms of trying to mitigate that behaviour, [to have] food available,” Agnew said of the benefit of food trucks during the events in question.
Speaking in support of Stephen’s motion to amend, Kingscourt-Rideau District Councillor Brandon Tozzo noted the language will ensure activities are restricted within the confines of Queen’s campus.
“I think it just says it’s a Queen’s thing. Keep that at Queen’s. Enjoy Homecoming, Come here, be safe, go to bed early, and drink lots of water,” he remarked.
Not all councillors were in support of the amendment or the initial motion. Loyalist-Cataraqui District Councillor Paul Chaves warned of the impact such a move could have on unauthorized street parties.
“My concern is, we’re going to be sponsoring [these] unauthorized street parties with food trucks until 2 a.m.,” Chaves said. He added that recent parties in the university district have seen a drop in attendance, but the motion may result in more students taking part in unauthorized parties.
Glenn then addressed Stephen’s amendment, speaking against it.
“Part of this is to also recognize that these parties, and the students and alumni, travel through the neighbourhood,” she said.
“This is already in all of the neighbourhoods; it’s not simply in that little area that we’re calling Queen’s. I’m not in support of the amendment, simply because I think that if we’re actually going to have an effect on capturing more of the population that is going to be out during Homecoming, it needs to be areas that were discussed with the AMS.”
Mayor Bryan Paterson noted that by allowing food trucks off-campus, he feels the City would essentially be endorsing the exact behaviour officials have sought to clamp down on in recent years.
“Imagine the angst of people dealing with a huge gathering at City Park and saying, ‘The City even allowed a food truck there to fuel what was going on…’ I think it’s important that we… endorse, and we promote, and permit health[y] food options, all the aspects that Councillor Glenn has mentioned — but we’re not going to endorse that off-campus,” he said.
Councillors eventually voted 7-6 to approve Stephen’s amendment, with Glenn, Chaves, Collins-Bayridge’s Lisa Osanic, Meadowbrook-Strathcona’s Jeff McLaren, Trillium’s Jimmy Hassan, and Pittsburgh’s Ryan Boehme against.
While the motion as amended would allow Smith to permit food trucks to remain open past 11 p.m., there is a provision for the Director to revoke such extensions “in their reasonable opinion.” During Tuesday’s meeting, Smith confirmed staff will work with Kingston Police to monitor the situation and act accordingly.
“If we do have the food trucks out there, they are going to be something that we’re patrolling rather frequently, so we could act very proactively if something got out of hand,” he explained.
Smith also noted talks with Kingston Police are ongoing ahead of Homecoming celebrations later this month, which will include conversations on the food truck initiative: “We’ve briefly spoken with [them, and] we actually have a more comprehensive meeting coming up next week… We’ll be able to have a more fulsome conversation… and get their input on where locations should be even on Queen’s campus itself, how we can police it, [and] how we can monitor that throughout the timing of the event.”
Despite assurances from Smith and staff, not all councillors were in favour of the motion. Hassan stated, “I can’t support this motion without a police report, police inputs, staff reports, or staff recommendations. I think it’s not fair.”
City Council ultimately voted 11-2 in support of Glenn’s motion (as amended), with Chaves and Hassan opposed. With the motion now approved, Smith will be able to waive the relevant section of the bylaw for food trucks on Queen’s campus from October 14 to November 1, 2023.
Members of the public can view the full agenda from the meeting on the City of Kingston’s City Council meetings webpage, and the meeting can be viewed in full on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.