Tonawanda News

March 5, 2014

Mudds owner speaks out against food truck proposal

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Frank Berrafato, the owner of summertime restaurants Mississippi Mudds and Old Man River, argued against a proposal that would allow food trucks to do business in the City of Tonawanda Tuesday night at a council meeting.

“Do I want food trucks in the city? Absolutely not, if I had my choice,” he said. “Do I know they’re coming? Yes.”

In August, the council passed a resolution that required food truck operators to pay a $100 permitting fee for the rest of 2013. The measure also made it illegal for food trucks to operate within 100 feet of a brick and mortar restaurant.

But the law — which mobile vendor operators said was too strict — expired at the end of 2013. Council members have since been discussing new proposals, the most recent of which would institute a $250 annual fee and a 100-foot radius from the nearest brick and mortar restaurant.

Attorney Mitchell Stenger, who represents several Western New York food trucks, said he was pleased the council reduced the fee from what had originally been $1,000 per year, and that under the proposal, the 100-foot radius would be measured from the restaurant’s door, not its closest exterior wall.

The proposal before lawmakers would also permit food trucks to operate in Niawanda Park, a spot they’ve coveted for its large summertime crowds.

“I am encouraged ... that there is a new provision specifically allowing for food truck operation in at least the one designated park of Niawanda,” Stenger wrote in an email.

But Berrafato, whose restaurants are located on Niagara Street across from Niawanda, argued against allowing the trucks in the park.

“I’d call for some kind of limited area where they can go,” he said. “Do you want your park to look like the Erie County Fair?”

He also voiced concern about the radius requirement, and stressed his position as a tax-paying business owner in the city.

“I think that needs to be pushed back, so we can have our space,” Berrafato said. “Let’s protect the business owners who pay taxes, let’s protect the people who employ the students of this community.”

In response, Stenger noted that many area food trucks are only purchasing permits in a few municipalities, so they would not flood the city or the park. He also argued that a city law cannot prevent competition between businesses.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

• The council tabled a resolution that would provide parking on Young Street to nearby city residents that do not have off-street parking. The space available will only accommodate seven or eight parking spaces and the city would need to hold a lottery for the spots.

• The council passed a resolution allowing for a portion of Canton Street to be given to Erie County for the Rails to Trails project, which will convert old, unused railways into a bike path.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.