Lloyd to Buffalo: Food truck patrons, unite!
blog by Ben Kirst • March 24, 2013 @ 4:52pm
We see so many signs of progress and cooperation in Western New York recently that it is confusing how utterly polarizing the food truck situation can be.
On one hand, we have the truck owners (and their customers), who want easier access, reduced or streamlined vending fees and a little recognition for their economic impact on the region. On the other, there are brick-and-mortar businesses that want food trucks to face the same kind of strict regulations that they face and limits on how close the trucks can operate near an existing business.
This Tuesday, the Buffalo Common Council will hold a final hearing regarding the expiring food truck ordinance. That piece of legislation set limits on where food trucks could do business (100 feet away from any open kitchen) and requires food truck operators to pay a $1,000 fee for a vending permit. It will expire on April 1, and, as Ben Tsujimoto explained earlier this month, local food truck owners would love to get that fee closer in line with what is paid in major metropolises around the nation—anywhere from three-quarters to one-tenth of the current cost. They would also like access to Canalside, an untapped marketplace full of hungry concertgoers throughout the summer.
The current ordinance imposes a licensing fee of $1,000 per truck, per year, giving Buffalo the highest food truck fee in the nation. Cities like LA, New York, Austin and Cleveland charge significantly lower fees for a food truck license. The $1,000 fee is cost-prohibitive to many, and has proven to be harmful to Buffalo’s fledgling food truck economy. Lloyd, together with an association of several other food trucks, are advocating for a decreased fee.You can help us, and all current and future food truck vendors, by exercising your civic rights! If you are a Buffalo resident, call or email your Common Council representative and let him or her know that you support a decreased fee for food truck licensing.
The delicious, cilantro-laced taco is about to hit the fan in Amherst, as well. Last Thursday, The Buffalo News noted that the suburb is slated to revisit food truck regulations soon, as well:
Amherst is the first suburb to follow in Buffalo’s footsteps by requiring food truck permits, and is considering new regulations. A proposed law up for public discussion April 8 at Town Hall would be more restrictive, in some ways, than Buffalo’s permit.
Lovers of food-on-wheels would have more difficulty finding food trucks on streets in Amherst, late in the evening or near intersections under the draft law recently released.
While there aren’t any restrictions on food trucks in private parking lots, where the trucks do the most business in town, food trucks would be forbidden from operating for more than an hour on streets.
“We don’t want these folks just setting up shop and staking out an area for an indeterminate amount of time,” said Building Commissioner Thomas C. Ketchum, who authored the proposed food truck permit law.
Ketchum’s comments help crystallize the situation: to some influential Western New Yorkers, a food truck isn’t a business. It’s a nuisance. It’s roughly the same as a peddler showing up at your doorstep, selling knives. Or a phony entrance, like some cartoon setup, that leads innocent customers away from a more traditional business model and into something that seems transitory, fly-by-night, sketchy.
Basically, Western New Yorkers are being given a choice: if the food truck business is going to continue its growth, citizens have to speak out (and not just on Twitter). Residents have to talk to their local municipal officials and representatives, encouraging them to allow these entrepreneurs to grow their businesses unhindered by excessive fees and regulation.
Buffalonians can find their city representatives online at the Common Council website.
Amherst residents can check out the town’s contact page.
If you’d like to learn more about food trucks, the Institute for Justice recently published a study titled ‘Seven Myths and Realities about Food Trucks: Why the Facts Support Food Truck Freedom.’ Here’s a link: http://www.ij.org/7-myths-and-realities
Politicians listen to two things: money and votes. If they are convinced that public opinion can affect them in either of these departments, they’ll listen. Find your voice, food trucks fans, if you want to live in the food truck future.
Photo from The Buffalo News.