Tonawanda News

July 28, 2013

A rolling debate

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — As the City of Tonawanda prepares for a debate over the best way to regulate the newest eateries on the block, other local municipalities are also considering enacting their own food truck laws. 

Both North Tonawanda and Kenmore don’t have any codes on the books governing the rolling restaurants, but both mayors said their legislative bodies have had discussions on the issue. 

“Why reinvent the wheel? We are looking at what other municipalities have done, like Amherst, and will probably have a public hearing on it,” Mang said, noting that progress on the matter is likely still a few weeks away. 

The City of Tonawanda, too, referenced other towns’ policies in creating their proposal, which was tabled Tuesday and called “very strict” by food truck advocates. The council was considering making it illegal for the trucks to operate within a 500-foot radius of a brick and mortar restaurant, while in both Amherst and Buffalo, the required radius is 100 feet. 

The 500-foot designation would essentially ban food trucks from operating on Niagara Street near Niawanda Park — a preferred destination for vendors due to its high volume of foot traffic.

Tonawanda was also considering implementing Amherst’s permitting costs of $400 for the initial application and $200 for a renewal, while Buffalo recently dropped its prices to $800 and $500.

The regulations in Amherst and Buffalo were a product of passionate disputes between truck advocates, restaurants and lawmakers, and Mang said he recognized the complicated nature of the situation. 

“It is a different situation for brick and mortar restaurants, but we also want to promote new business,” he said. “A hearing will allow both owners to be heard before anyone makes any decisions.” 

The region’s fleet of more than a dozen food trucks often frequent the City of Buffalo, but they do make stops in Kenmore and the Tonawandas. Saturday, food trucks will be at the Kenmore Village Improvement Society’s Lunch Beat event, and R&R BBQ was at Kenmore Baptist Church. 

Melissa Foster, the founder of KVIS, said they use the trucks at events where it would be difficult to serve take-out food from a restaurant, but noted that she also attempts to keep the trucks away from brick and mortar establishments. 

“We use them very consciously,” Foster said, noting that she doesn’t think a resolution is necessary since they don’t cause problems in the village. “They send a message that it is the hip place ... come and discover Kenmore, it is the place to be, and indeed, it is. Food trucks only draw you in more.” 

NT Mayor Rob Ortt said he has received calls from food truck companies asking about any relevant regulations, and hasn’t received any complaints from brick and mortar restaurants — but said they are likely “not thrilled” by the trucks. 

“I definitely think it is something we are going to have look at,” he said.

Council President Rich Andres said immediate action isn’t necessary, as there hasn’t been a problem yet. In the City of Tonawanda, the issue came up after a restaurant owner was angered by food trucks setting up shop on Niagara Street. 

In NT, trucks do report to the Wurlitzer Building for lunch, but the property is private and is therefore not subject to any regulation. 

And over in the Town of Tonawanda, Supervisor Anthony Caruana said food trucks are not allowed on public property in the town — so he hasn’t received any complaints from either the trucks or the restaurants. 

“There hasn’t been a lot of interest,” he said. 

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

INSIDE • The News editorial board calls for permissive ordinances on food truck operation in the City of Tonawanda. OPINION/XA