Food truck fans will continue to find their favorite delicacies served up on four wheels at hot spots around the city, from hot dogs topped with blueberry barbecue sauce in the Larkin District to lentil sandwiches at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
To the relief of food truck owners, the Common Council on Tuesday voted to reduce some truck fees and rejected calls from a well-known restaurant owner to increase regulations on the mobile vendors. “We’re just looking for an opportunity to compete, and I think we got that today,” said Paul Tripi, co-owner of Frank’s Gourmet Hot Dogs. The high-profile debate over the future of the trucks has put a spotlight on Buffalo’s changing food culture, the ability of food truck owners to do business in the city and the interests of established brick-and-mortar restaurants.
As the Council considered how it should “Food trucks bring life, a sense of place, they excite people,” city resident Bernice Radle told lawmakers.
Several restaurant owners spoke in favor of the trucks, saying they add activity to commercial corridors and are a welcome addition to the city’s food scene.
University Heights restaurateur Tucker Curtin, who owns the Steer and Lake Effect Diner on Main Street, was a notable exception.
Tuesday, he http://blogs.buffalonews.com/politics_now/2013/03/today-in-city-hall-restaurants-to-propose-tough-regulations-for-food-trucks.html ">proposed more severe restrictions on the trucks, including prohibitions on their operation within 100 feet of any private building housing a commercial enterprise or residential dwelling without permission and a requirement that the trucks be equipped with GPS devices so the city can track their whereabouts.
After an hourlong debate that drew about 45 people to Council Chambers, lawmakers voted on a proposal from North Council Member Joseph Golombek that did not include any of Curtin’s suggestions.
Food truck owners who already have paid $1,000 for a permit will be charged $500 to renew it, and a restriction that trucks cannot operate within 100 feet of an open kitchen will be maintained.
A requirement that the trucks pass a fire inspection, which will cost approximately $65, will be added to the ordinance, and the truck owners will continue to pay to participate in special events, such as festivals and concerts.
The new ordinance does not have an expiration date but calls for the Council to review every initial truck permit.
“We have a little bit more certainty now of the future, and we can worry about our own businesses and the challenges we face on a daily basis as opposed to more political, bureaucratic regulations,” Tripi said. “So, I think today was a good day for food trucks and for Buffalo.”
The Council will consider a measure to lower the $1,000 permit fee for new trucks to $800 at an upcoming meeting, Golombek said.
That’s because trucks that paid $1,000 in January 2012 had a permit that lasted 15 months, as the ordinance expires April 1, while the new ordinance calls for permits to last 12 months.
In the last 18 months, there have been few, if any, complaints about the trucks, Golombek said.“These guys have policed themselves,” he said.
Golombek said the legislation weighs the interests of various parties. “I do think the ordinance is a better ordinance because everyone did sit down at one point or another at the table,” he said. “I think ours is a very, very good ordinance.”
After the meeting, Curtin said he wasn’t disappointed with the Council action, and he noted that some of the issues he raised will continue to be discussed by lawmakers.
Food truck owners were particularly concerned about what changes the Council would make to the city ordinance, because many suburban communities, including Amherst, are considering their own fees and operating rules. If every community requires high permit fees, the trucks will have trouble operating around Western New York, truck owners said.
“We have a statute on the books that we can live with,” Mitchell M. Stenger, a lawyer who represented truck owners, said of the Council’s action.
“We’re not happy with all the terms in the statute, but I guess that’s why they say that good legislation is when everyone is equally unhappy.”