Tonawanda News

March 19, 2014

City OKs food truck law

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The City of Tonawanda council unanimously passed a resolution regulating food trucks Tuesday night that the mobile vendor operators say is unfair and designed only to protect one brick and mortar restaurant.

“If the council passes this legislation, I will recommend that we challenge this in court,” Western New York Food Truck Association attorney Mitchell Stenger said prior to the vote Tuesday. “We are going backwards, and it’s not for the right reasons.”

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 restaurant.

But the law expired at the end of 2013, and the body began reviewing the policy in January. The council discussed implementing a resolution that would institute a $250 annual fee and a 100-foot radius from the nearest brick and mortar restaurant.

The council tabled the measure in February to discuss it with Frank Berrafato, the owner of seasonal restaurants Mississippi Mudds and Old Man River on Niagara Street.

Berrafato attended the council’s last meeting to speak against the proposal and argue for the radius requirement to be increased.

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

The council then revised its proposed resolution, changing the 100-foot radius to 150 feet and prohibiting the trucks from entering Niawanda Park at the Kohler Street entrance, which is located across the street from Mississippi Mudds.

“It has gone from OK to worse,” Stenger said. “They aren’t protecting the health or safety of the residents, they’re protecting one business owner, and we all know who it is.”

Pete Cimino, the cofounder of Lloyd Taco Truck, pointed out that many other local municipalities, including Buffalo, have a 100-foot radius requirement.

“It is just very clear that there was no reason to increase that,” said Cimino, who also argued that the fee is too high for the city’s size. “Food trucks can bring people to the city and foster revitalization ... this just tells me that they want business as usual around here.”

But council members argued that the resolution offered a fair compromise and was designed to promote the well being of residents. They also noted that the new resolution allows trucks in the parks, while the 2013 law did not.

“I’m very pleased that it passed, because food trucks attract people to our city,” Councilwoman Jenna Koch said. “There have been a lot of discussions with the food trucks and the area businesses, and I thought the resolution reached a common goal.”

Resident Lynn Casal also spoke in support of the resolution, which expires at the end of the year.

“He (Berrafato) has been paying taxes here for a very long time, and has been providing jobs, and to not consider him is unjust,” she said. 

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

• The city honored Pauline Katus, who recently retired as a school crossing guard after 41 years of service.

• Council President Carleton Zeisz said that the body will meet with Canal Fest organizers next week. They will consider implementing a multi-year deal, and will also discuss the possibility of moving the parade.

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