Downtown targeted for food truck destination

Downtown targeted for food truck destination

Officials begin talks on new rules for mobile eateries

PAWTUCKET - The city's downtown could provide a perfect spot for a future food truck destination, said city officials last week, and like many other areas in the city, allowing them there would do little to hurt local restaurant business.

Councilor Thomas Hodge, chairman of the ordinance committee, and Councilor Albert Vitali Jr., chairman of the license committee, led a joint meeting to discuss the basics of a new law to allow outside food trucks into the city.

Notices were sent out to all "brick and mortar" businesses with a victualing license prior to the meeting, according to Vitali and Hodge, but almost no one showed up to voice opposition to the idea of allowing food trucks in.

Food trucks are currently only allowed if they are operated by someone who lives within city limits or runs a business here. Outside food trucks do come in illegally, but mostly stay in industrial areas near city borders.

Hodge said Monday that officials have made "great progress on the food truck issue." Following last week's meeting, Planning Director Barney and Solicitor Frank Milos now have some basic parameters to work with to draft an ordinance governing food trucks in the city, said Hodge, and council members will then "fine tune" the regulations from there.

"The end result will be that food trucks will be allowed," he said. "Where and how that happens is still to be determined."

Hodge said that officials are still trying to get "a better handle" on where food truck owners would like to go in the city, and "how we can accommodate that."

Vitali said he's excited to finally be moving on an ordinance that will allow the "great novelty" of food trucks into the city. Though they may not have a huge direct economic impact on the city, he said, they will "bring more attention" to Pawtucket, and that's not a bad thing.

"Economic development is economic development," he said. If you have to dangle "a little bit of a carrot to get attention" and generate traffic into the city, said Vitali, he sees nothing wrong with that.

City officials could even decide to create a "food truck festival" in the future, said Vitali, where foodies could flock to a central location to sample offerings from dozens of trucks.

There are plenty of challenges to getting an ordinance done that satisfies everyone, said Vitali. Trucks will not be allowed within a certain number of feet from an existing establishment, he said, and time limits will be set for when the truck vendors have to shut their doors for the night, among other restrictions.