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Alexis Andrzejak just wanted to serve up gourmet grilled cheese. What she got was a crash course in why so many find it hard to do business here.

The regulations. The fees. The politics.

Just because Andrzejak ran her small startup on wheels didn't make it any easier. In fact, in her view, it made it even tougher. She spent months getting her food truck business, The Cheesy Chick, ready for the road. But after 11 months, she'd hit enough roadblocks.

It wasn't the cooking or serving customers or working long hours in a truck. That stuff she loved.

What she won't miss is the heaping serving of bureaucracy she got.

“I kind of got fed up with the city, because all the places I did want to serve, I wasn't allowed,” Andrzejak said.

Starting a small business is hard. Starting a small business when the rules are still evolving is a whole other challenge.

More than two years after Lloyd Taco Truck proved there was a mobile market for braised beef and tomatillo pork burritos, those in power are still grappling with just what to make of these food truck young entrepreneurs. And the solutions cooked up by local governments have been as fresh as last night's leftovers: fees and more fees.

What do you get for the $1,000 you pay for a food truck permit in Buffalo? No access to some of the prime downtown areas to cater to the lunch and late-night crowds. For that, you'll have to pay another fee to set up in the city's special downtown district.

It adds up quickly.

Take Lloyd, for example. The taco truck reported paying $6,285 in fees last year as it sought out lunch crowds and dinner markets around the region. There was a state health inspection and a county health inspection. Two different background checks. Fees in three municipalities and permits for 10 different special events.

You've got to sell an awful lot of tacos to make up for all those fees – 2,285 chimichurri chickens, to be exact. And that's before you account for employees, supplies, gasoline, sales tax and all the other expenses of running a business.

What the food truck owners fear is that it's only going to get more complicated as every town, village and city sets up its own rules and fees.

“Amherst is waiting to see what Buffalo does,” said lawyer Mitchell Stenger, who represents the coalition of food trucks. “Then East Aurora and West Seneca, they're waiting to see what Amherst does. Next thing you know, these guys are getting nickeled and dimed to death.”

Consider it a microcosm of the region's business climate.

Multiple layers of municipalities and inspections mean the cost of doing business can quickly get exponentially more expensive for a truck that needs to cross town lines to do business.

Andrzejak found Buffalo's $1,000 food truck permit absurd.

“All these cities where food trucks are huge, they don't pay a fraction of that,” Andrzejak said.

A mother with a young son, she had personal reasons for putting her truck on the market and focusing on family. But she said the regulations and rules about where she could vend were a big part of her decision to pack up. She hopes she can find someone willing to buy her business and carry on The Cheesy Chick.

She's simply had enough of this food fight.



email: djgee@buffnews.com