Revenge of the hot dogs
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • October 26, 2011 @ 8:22am
As it turns out, no one really wanted to have the second public Common Council hearing in regard to food truck legislation. The Common Council didn’t think there was a need, the Food Truck Association’s Mitchell Stenger said the meeting was “not at [his] suggestion,” and Entrepreneurs for a Better Buffalo attorney Michael Kooshoian didn’t want to stay longer than he had to.
The purpose, then, was “to further air concerns from the community.” Who spoke out?
— Peter Gallivan, owner of a hot dog stand for 20 years in the Buffalo Place zoning district, expressed his concerns with the food trucks being allowed to roam freely, using the dreaded “Wild West” phrase. “I have a specific city-issued permit for a specific location,” he said, citing a Sept. 8 occurrence when a truck “stole” several of his customers at Ellicott and Goodrich.
A territorial complaint, Gallivan’s gripe is an obstacle primarily because it raises a zoning issue—if the legislation is different in the Buffalo Place district than the rest of the downtown area, what’s stopping other “districts” from forming their own treatments of mobile vendors? Why does Buffalo Place get special legislation for its zone? In sum, Gallivan basically fears nearby competition, using his 20 years of hot dog vending experience as a defense.
Kooshoian, representing the B & Ms (bricks and mortar restaurants, the stationary variety) and other entrepreneurs (he made sure we grouped the smaller mobile vendors here too), focused on the zoning issue as the major delay in proceedings. He mentioned after the Common Council meeting that he never agreed to the 100 foot radius for food trucks to operate—that decision was made solely by the Food Truck Association, and Kooshoian would prefer to base the legislation zone-by-zone.
Like many of the food truck detractors, Gallivan also questioned how much the food trucks were charged to operate Buffalo Place. The costs were proportional by size—hot dog vendors pay $315 for a permit, while Peter Cimino and co-owner Chris Dorsaneo of Lloyd Taco Truck shelled out $1400 for their spot on Main and Mohawk.
— David Marotto, owner of Dough Bois, a pizza place at the corner of Niagara St. and Franklin, was very demonstrative too, but his reasons lacked Gallivan’s clarity. Rather disjointedly, Marotto raised concerns over where he should file complaints—to the city or Buffalo Place—and why food trucks didn’t have to pay the permit fees that he faces regularly (citing a $400 patio fee in particular).
— Christina Walsh, Director of Activism and Coalitions for the Institute of Justice, traveled to Buffalo on her own dime to lend a larger perspective. Her primary point was that food trucks were making a significant sacrifice by proposing the 100 foot radius (away from any B & M) rule, and that the overarching demand on food trucks around the U.S. is to meet sanitary regulations.
“[The Food Truck Association] has had a mature response,” Walsh said. “They just want to work, to be a part of the system—they don’t want to get kicked out of their seats.”
“Buffalo has a chance to be on the cutting edge of a wave of reform,” Walsh says, and that’s not a phrase you hear too frequently. For now, though, that reform has been tabled again, resulting in frustration for mobile food vendors. Food Truck Association consultant Miles Gresham raised a good point: why should the brick and mortars care if this legislation moves slower than molasses? They’re not the ones being hurt by it.