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Smithers debates mobile restaurant licenses

The owner and employees at Schimmel’s spoke at last week’s council meeting saying unfair competition would hurt their business.

Wade Tyler spends his days as an employee at Schimmel’s bakery, and he braved sneers from the packed gallery behind him as he made his pitch on why he feels the existing business license bylaw is unfair to current fixed businesses.

He told council that he hopes that they keep “us employees in mind in your decision.”

He argued that a mobile restaurant has unfair advantages over established businesses, like Schimmel’s, that can hurt their business.

With winter months being tight as it is, he was concerned that unfair competition would dampen summer profits, leading to possible downsizing in the future.

Competition from mobile restaurants has been a hot topic for Smithers’ council lately as the town grapples with how to, or if to, change the current regulations.

Tyler’s presentation didn’t do much to convince the scores of people who showed up to support not just the business policy for the town but rather an individual business.

Mika Meyer, and husband Nick, operate Bugwood Bean, a new mobile restaurant which serves primarily coffee from their trailer on Main Street.

Mika and Nick sat before council directly after Tyler’s presentation, and had an at times emotional conversation with councillors.

Mika didn’t hold back a volley of scorns to the town which included an accusation that she’s felt bullied by this entire process, which she has found incredibly frustrating.

What has them steaming mad is the fact that after being issued a business license, the town is looking to alter the terms.

In particular focus is a proposed change to force a 60 metre gap between a mobile restaurant and any other food shop. Currently the distance allowed is 30 m.

An additional change would be to only allow a mobile restaurant to be at a location for two consecutive days—a regulation currently reserved for the similar, but different, mobile vendor classification.

Mika emphasized the lack of transparency that has taken place in this whole procedure.

“Not one member of the town considered contacted me regarding this potential bylaw change,” she said.

Schimmel’s owner Gunther Zweifler emphasized that advocating changes to the business licence bylaw is not an attack on an individual business.

“We have nothing against competition, but competition should be fair,” he said. “The cost of doing business in town is not cheap.”

He points to their staff of eight, hydro and gas bills, insurance and taxes.

“Mobile vendors do not carry the operational burdens we do.”

Mobile vendors have many advantages over fixed-location businesses, including not having to have their business adhere to Smithers’ alpine theme, he said.

Council won’t vote on any changes to the business license bylaw until their May 24 meeting.