Food trucks finding a destination in city’s downtown

Food trucks finding a destination in city’s downtown

PAWTUCKET – Two years after city officials changed local laws to allow food trucks in Pawtucket, the city is finally seeing some regular traffic from the mobile eateries.

After a successful food truck show and awards ceremony on top of the city garage on June 13, and another food truck event last Thursday, Mike Ryan and his Motif Magazine are planning similar events for August and September.

There was some initial reluctance from the City Council on the first event, but members now seem supportive of the food truck events being a regular thing, said Ryan, as they’re seeing the events bring some life to the area. The council last Wednesday approved liquor and entertainment events and reduced fees for three more “Food Trucks on the Rooftop” events, the first last Thursday, July 21, the second on Thursday, Aug. 18, and the third on Thursday, Sept. 15, all starting around 5 p.m.

Any proceeds from the events are going to the Southeast New England (SENE) Film, Music & Arts Festival, said Ryan.

Ryan said the success of the first two events has shown him that there’s a viable market for food truck fare in Pawtucket. The food truck show on June 13 drew 350 people, while the July 21 event drew another 250, not including about 25 people working as truck and event staff.

Separately, the Pawtucket Foundation this summer has been sponsoring Wellness Wednesdays next to City Hall. Fitness workshops are followed up by a food truck lunch.

Christine Sullivan, director of development for the sponsoring Pawtucket Foundation, said the food trucks have become a steady draw over the summer, bringing more and more people each week to get lunch and sit out under the trees at tables set up by the foundation.

The foundation is also working on ways to make the downtown a more attractive place for people to hang out, said Sullivan. Volunteers recently repainted the wall across the street and will plant ivy to cover that wall.

More food trucks in Pawtucket is simply an outgrowth of “more food trucks everywhere,” according to Ryan. Food truck chefs are artists on the “experimental edge of the food industry,” and Pawtucket as a city is friendly to the arts with an experimental edge.

Pawtucket is stricter than many cities on where and how food trucks are allowed to operate, said Ryan, as leaders are concerned about not taking business away from brick and mortar businesses.

City Council members last week questioned Ryan on whether he’s making a profit off the food truck events and reiterated their concern that the events not impact tax-paying city businesses.

Ryan thanked Herb Weiss, the city’s economic and cultural affairs officer, for getting the wheels rolling on bringing in food trucks.