FREMANTLE city council has jumped aboard the global food van phenomenon to try to liven up some of its under-used parks.
Gourmet food vans have been a hot topic internationally and particularly in the United States, where they’ve caused a split between customers keen to try exotic fare on the run, and traditional brick and mortar cafes trying to protect their high fixed-costs livelihoods.
In Fremantle 12 vans have either been approved or are in the final stages.
Mayor Brad Pettitt says they’re good at attracting people to little-used spaces.
“A key indicator of Fremantle’s revitalisation is of course for the city to be bustling with people, so provided existing business aren’t significantly disadvantaged, I welcome initiatives like this to activate public areas in Fremantle,” he told the Herald.
He says feedback so far has been “overwhelmingly positive and is further cementing Fremantle’s reputation as a place that embraces funky and innovative initiatives like this”.
But Fremantle Business Association president Ivan Dzeba, whose group is closely aligned with the city’s cappuccino strip restaurateurs, says he hadn’t even heard of the project’s trial, which started mid-last year.
Mr Dzeba says the 13 locations approved are all in suburban areas so he doesn’t think CBD cafes will be overly concerned—but suburban cafe owners might be miffed.
“If I had a restaurant on Douro Road and suddenly four or five vans started operating down the road, I don’t think I’d be too happy,” he told the Herald.
South Fremantle is a case in point, with smoothie maker Dirk Schoendube caught out after the council initially gave him a permit to run his van on Wilson Park.
After about six weeks he’d built up a steady clientele, when the council suddenly told him to move on because the nearby South Beach kiosk had complained.
Mr Schoendube says to make things worse he didn’t receive the email the council had apparently sent him so in the end he had just 24 hours’ notice.
He’s since set himself up in the car park outside the Fremantle Sailing Club, which services the local dog beach, and is even considering adding pooch treats to his repertoire.
The Chook has also picked up a bit of chatter on social media with some punters unhappy about the chug of generators breaking into a quiet day at their park. Others are concerned about the council’s eagerness to hand public space over to commercial entities.
by STEVE GRANT