Clear heads needed on Eat Street agenda

Cameron Gallagher and Sharla Karol with their truck Burger Junkie, in 2013. Burger Junkie is one of the food vans that take part in Eat Street.
Cameron Gallagher and Sharla Karol with their truck Burger Junkie, in 2013. Burger Junkie is one of the food vans that take part in Eat Street.

Launceston’s popular Eat Street could be relocated by the City of Launceston council.

As reported by The Examiner this week, the council will be discussing the city’s “food van culture” at its meeting on Monday.

Throughout the year, the council will investigate other locations that could house the food vans that make up Eat Street on High Street.

Most nights, a handful of vans take to the curb, put out their signs, and start cooking.

Launceston diners have taken to the food van concept like ducks to the proverbial.

On the long weekend, someone estimated to me that there were between 300 and 400 people at the High Street park, enjoying a summery March evening.

There could be benefits to relocating the vans – anyone who has driven through High Street at peak tucker time has seen the amount of people that flock to the area.

It’s a reasonably busy street for traffic, there’s a playground, and there’s children. 

It would not take much for an accident to occur, and that’s the last thing that anyone wants.

The council has put in interim measures to reduce the 60km/h zone to 40km/h from 4pm and 9pm, while the vans are doing their thing.

It all makes sense.

What would not make sense – and what I hope does not happen – is for the leash to be tightened on the van businesses.

They’ve re-invigorated what was once a forgotten part of the city.

They have created rituals, friendships, and a sense of community for Launceston’s residents.

Sure, if it were relocated, the ambience could be recreated and rebuilt. 

But is there much sense to relocate them?

Would it not be better to build on what already exists?

The call came earlier this month for public toilets to be installed at the park.

(Why are there not already toilets there? It’s been a park and playground for years.)

Adding amenities to the area – toilets, picnic tables, maybe even outdoor umbrellas – would be a welcome “relief” for many of the patrons.

Bolstering the infrastructure at the park would also pave the way for the space to be used outside of Eat Street.

In cities and towns across the rest of the country and globe, food vans are a part of the social calendar and business landscape.

Melbourne suburbs like Thornbury and Yarraville have established permanent food van lots, complete with tables, outdoor lighting, and yes, toilets.

Although, knowing Tassie’s winters, we’d probably have to add outdoor heaters to that list, too.

There is plenty of space around St George’s Park that could be better utilised to support the growing flock of Eat Street-ers.

There are plenty of people, vendors, patrons and residents, who have great ideas around how we could achieve the optimal operational structure for Eat Street.

These people and more will be waiting to see the outcome of the council’s investigations and suggestions around addressing the situation at present.

Let us just hope that they do not bow to any pressure that may still be lingering; the negativity that once threatened the livelihood of the city’s food van culture.

Consultation, clear heads, and forward-thinking is needed to make sure we get the right outcome for the city.

After all, no one likes a hangry Launcestonian.