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Food trucks pleased with new proposal

Photo of R & R BBQ by Sophie Herrman

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

The City of Buffalo’s seven-month foot-shuffle in determining food truck regulations may finally be nearing an end. The new proposal set forth by Councilman Joseph Golombek Jr. shows solid proof of progress after a series of squabbles between the city’s five food truck vendors and brick and mortar restaurants. With council meetings upcoming on Jan. 3 and Jan. 10, there’s a distinct possibility —fingers crossed—that a Common Council vote will be staged before February.

“[The drafted legislation] is a win for the food trucks, a win for the Common Council and a win for the [brick and mortar] restaurants,” Lloyd Taco Truck co-owner Peter Cimino said firmly about the drafted legislation over the phone Wednesday. It’s important to note that the bill can be revised or pulled by the Common Council at any time, but for now at least, there’s a sense of optimism.

Roaming Buffalo food truck owner Christopher Taylor and R & R BBQ owner Renee Allen echoed Cimino’s positive sentiments in separate phone calls yesterday. “The drafted legislation looks a lot like [the food truck owners’] first proposal,” Allen remarked.

Although there are a few provisions that seem impossible to maintain for the food trucks, the mobile food vendors are willing to make concessions in the name of successfully establishing a law.

“We’ve been willing to appease [all sides] in order to get this bill through,” Taylor said.

[See the full text of the drafted legislation here, courtesy of Alan Bedenko]

— Major positives:

1) There were no “special vending districts” created on Elmwood and Hertel Avenues, two high-traffic zones that would be a boon for the food trucks. The fear among food truck owners was that these areas would be more stringently controlled, much like the Buffalo Place District.

2) There’s no stipulation that each food truck owner must be on the truck at all times. If a truck is successful enough to afford a second vehicle (usually in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $50,000), both trucks can operate simultaneously. To our knowledge, both Lloyd Taco Truck and the Roaming Buffalo have grand plans to expand.

3) Licensing paperwork is much easier than anticipated. Allen explained that the process to apply for a license under the drafted regulations is nearly identical to the Buffalo Place application.

4) The bill’s sunset provision was pushed to April 1, 2013, allowing a full calendar year to unfold before the legislation is revisited. Before this draft, the target date for returning to the bill was only six months into the future—and the mobile food business changes drastically by season.

—Points of confusion:

1) Point 316-51 of the draft reads: “It shall be unlawful for a Mobile Food Vehicle Vendor to park, stand or operate in a location which is adjacent to or within a 100-foot radius of any property line of a licensed food establishment, the kitchen of which is open for serving food to patrons.” The food trucks have been pushing for the distance to be measured from the establishment’s front door, a much less confusing choice, as property lines aren’t exactly tangible.

2) The proposed requirement for each truck to carry two 65-pound garbage cans on the truck appears both cumbersome and unnecessary. Because a commercial kitchen makes up most the food truck, lugging around two massive garbage receptacles seems counterproductive to ensuring sanitation guidelines are followed. In R & R BBQ’s case, in which the truck is slightly smaller than Lloyd or the Roaming Buffalo, the cans simply may not fit.   

3) A yearly licensing fee of $1,000 caught many by surprise—it was the lede in The Buffalo News’ City Hall reporter Aaron Besecker’s article. The proposed fee jumps from $325 and is much closer to the Buffalo Place District’s annual demands of $1,300. Strangely, the proposed permit fee is greater than a comparable fee in Los Angeles ($695 to $953, depending on district). Chicago’s permit fee for a “mobile food dispenser” is set at $275, while Cleveland only requires mobile food trucks to pay $150 for a vending license.

To call the route to drafted legislation “windy” would be an understatement—talks between the food truck owners, brick and mortar restaurant owners, myriad lawyers and the Common Council have been on-going since early this summer. When joint discussions between the food truck owners and the brick and mortars broke down, both sides eventually submitted their own separate proposals for the Council to view and merge into one draft. Will the story conclude in January? For the weary roving chefs of Buffalo—let’s hope so.

TAGGED: food trucks, joseph golombek jr., lloyd taco truck, mobile food vendor regulation, r&r bbq, roaming buffalo

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