Food truck proposal heads to City Council

Food truck proposal heads to City Council

Eateries on wheels 'an important part of the new economy'

PAWTUCKET - The head of the Pawtucket Foundation is asking the City Council to revise local ordinances that currently prohibit outside food trucks from coming into the city to sell their edible offerings.

The request to take an in-depth look at the city's peddlers' ordinance will likely be referred to the council's license committee for review at the regular council meeting Wednesday evening.

Aaron Hertzberg, executive director of the Pawtucket Foundation, is urging councilors to "review existing regulations and create a policy to welcome high quality food trucks to Pawtucket and relax local restrictions to better balance safety, business and consumer interests."

According to Hertzberg, the food truck craze continues to sweep the country, and is becoming "an important part of the new economy."

"Because of their relative low cost of entry and mobility, food trucks help to cultivate entrepreneurs and support other businesses and residents in revitalizing communities like Pawtucket," he wrote in a letter to the City Council.

The goal of crafting laws to encourage food truck activity is meant not only to supplement existing businesses and residents, but hopefully stimulate new opportunities for more permanent restaurants, said Hertzberg.

A group of local business owners and developers have been pushing city officials to change local laws prohibiting the popular eateries on wheels from crossing into the city.

Len Lavoie, a member of a local developers' group, previously told The Breeze that food trucks from outside of Pawtucket, particularly from Providence, are too popular to keep them out of a city where they are so welcome. Even though they're prohibited, said Lavoie, many trucks still come in and do a brisk business here when they do.

Current ordinances prohibit any outside vendors from crossing city lines to sell their wares, according to Barney Heath, director of the Department of Planning and Redevelopment, unless they live in the city, own real estate in the city, or have an existing business in the city.

Mayor Don Grebien has said he believes allowing outside food trucks in could have a "significant impact" on local economic development efforts. It is possible for a vendor to get a license to sell in the city, said Grebien, but the process is "cumbersome."

Grebien spokesman Doug Hadden said Tuesday that officials like the idea of food trucks as a way "to bring life" to Pawtucket and make the city more of a place where people want to be. Though the exact plan for how the new regulations will look has not been firmed up, he said, there will be an effort to ensure that food trucks are not having a negative impact on local restaurants. The city would also take in a minimal amount in fees, said Hadden.

Hertzberg said he has heard from a number of local business owners and residents who feel "constricted" by city regulations on food trucks.

Each business owner he spoke with felt that allowing food trucks from nearby communities to partner with their business during "limited hours of operation and special events" would benefit their business, said Hertzberg. Many also felt that current limits are keeping food trucks out of certain areas were their presence could bring a significant benefit.