Monday, February 7, 2011

Feb.7,2011 Guest editorial by Luke Mussato

First, I would like to thank Ralph for spending the time to host this blog. He’s helping fill an information vacuum. I encourage our District webmaster to set up something similar.

You all know me from the Sugar Shack ice cream shop and hot dog stand. I have probably served you a cone or a dog.

There is a hullabaloo regarding the Sugar Shack’s hot dog stand. Ever since my partners and I expanded our business with a hot dog stand in 2007, it has been a perpetual struggle. So it goes.

I am writing to refute the most popular claims and rumors about our beloved hot dog stand. There are a lot of uninformed people in places high and low who have a lot to say about this. It’s a topic many know about but few actually know.

Some people think we “skim the summer gravy”, and vanish during winter.
Wrong. We live here all year. Our shop is closed during winter for obvious reasons, weather and traffic related. Many other local businesses do the same.

Other common misconceptions include:
1. The hot dog stand pays almost no rent. Otherwise smart people have brought this up with me. Our monthly commercial rent is as high as anyone else’s. We rent a valuable location. The taxes on it are high. Thousands of dollars in tax revenue flow to the District annually.
2. Mobile food violates the district bylaws. The hot dog stand is not very different from a hotel or restaurant setting up a salmon barbeque. Every Canada Day there is a mobile cook-out at the Village Green. I’ve seen a mobile food cart there that cooks outside at the summer Public Market. How is all that OK and what I’m doing not?
3. The hot dog stand is cutting into other restaurants’ bottom lines. The reality is hot dog stands are only profitable if you can go where the crowds are and avoid paying big rent. The profit on this hot dog stand is unlikely to cover a year’s utilities for a serious Tofino restaurant. The hot dog stand is extremely weather dependent, unlike an indoor restaurant.

So why don’t we follow SOBO’s lead and set up indoors and avoid the hullabaloo? We would love to; however, the “For Sale” sign on the side of our building stops any long term planning and major investment.

Here is a fact: our hot dog stand isn’t mobile. It never moves. It is serviced from a health-board-approved commercial kitchen inside the Sugar Shack building. Food is packed outside for the day’s service and put away inside at night. The hot dog stand is much more a take-out restaurant and much less a mobile food unit.
In addition to an indoor kitchen, our hot dog stand has lots of off-street parking, indoor and outdoor seating, and a customer washroom. There are a few “real” restaurants in town that are missing one of these criteria.

It would be great to see Council proactively address the mobile food unit issue through the public process recommended by the District Planner’s report of October 25, 2010. This would help everyone involved get some much needed clarity. Regrettably, the report was tabled without action during the meeting of November 9, 2010.
I have still not received any responses to my hand delivered letter of November 22, 2010 to each Council member regarding this issue.

I hope this clarifies the current mobile food hullabaloo. I encourage anyone interested further to track me down at the Sugar Shack, or post a reply with contact info. I would be more than happy to discuss this issue further with you.

I hope to scoop you a great cone and cook you a tasty sausage this summer.

Thanks for your time.


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