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    • The Sugar Food Truck sells delicious cupcakes all over New Haven. If the food truck legislation passes, the truck may soon pay higher fees to vend downtown.

The Future of Food Trucks in New Haven

Zander Blitzer '18, Beat Editor
The vibrant New Haven dining scene boasts famous pizza places, cozy cafes and, more recently, scores of food trucks. Food trucks and carts have become incredibly popular in the area, offering a wide range of foods from Thai to cupcakes.
The vibrant New Haven dining scene boasts famous pizza places, cozy cafes and, more recently, scores of food trucks. Food trucks and carts have become incredibly popular in the area, offering a wide range of foods from Thai to cupcakes. These mobile kitchens offer inexpensive, tasty treats that don’t require the hassle of sitting down for a meal. Mike Lazarre ’18 said, “The food offered at the New Haven trucks is so delicious, and there’s a truck for many different cuisines.”

Recently, the city of New Haven has been grappling with legislation to accommodate the ever-growing legions of food trucks, whose numbers have swelled to about 700 vendors. According to Steve Fontana, Deputy Economic Development Director and head of a new initiative to clarify laws surrounding these mobile vendors, the interest in updating this legislation came from “an explosion of interest in mobile food vending and the number of complaints from restaurants, other vendors and patrons.”

This new legislation would require vendors to pay additional fees for licenses in desirable areas, namely on Sachem Street, downtown, Long Wharf and Cedar Street. These fees would range from $1000 on Cedar and Sachem to $4250 on Long Wharf. 

The food trucks and carts that currently reside in the parking lot of Ingalls Rink would be moved to Sachem Street, where only carts would be permitted to vend. Emerson Holloway ’18, who lives next to the Rink, said, “The food trucks are great to have so close to home for a quick bite to eat. If their location is moved, they’ll definitely be missed by the many people who go there to get food during the workweek.”

However, the money from these fees would go back to the vending community, city officials said. The revenue generated would be used to hire a supervisor to handle vendor compliance. The city would also allocate these funds to address safety issues with additional police coverage, and to provide for cleaning in vendor areas, electricity on Long Wharf and trash removal during the warm months. 

The legislation, according to Fontana, would create a framework to handle gaps in New Haven’s existing enforcement regarding mobile vending. The current plan is for these updated regulations to go before the Board of Alders in October. The regulations would, if passed, go into effect on January 1.
Fontana said the goal of the project was “to come up with a fair, transparent and clear system for allocating limited spaces efficiently in those parts of the city where the demand for space outstrips the supply.” 

The legislation would increase the number of spaces in each popular area and give these profitable spots to vendors through a lottery. Vendors would also have the option to pay a higher fee to guarantee a preferable spot. These additional spots call into question the amount of competition among vendors in the same area. 
Ernesto Garcia affirmed this competition when he spoke for his truck, Ay! Arepa, located at the corner of York and Elm. He said that being near other trucks, especially those of a similar concept, hurts business. 

Joe’s Grate BBQ is stationed with a dozen other trucks and carts by Ingalls Rink, but Joe Grate, the truck’s owner, doesn’t fear the competition. Grate said, “We don’t try to compete with other vendors because we’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “We have our own clientele who find us.”

Response from vendors over this new legislation has been mixed. Garcia said that he would prefer not to pay the high fees such legislation proposes. Grate also opposes these extra fees, and believes the city should stop giving out permits instead of raising fees for established vendors. 

Despite some resistance from vendors because of higher fees and the introduction of more competition, Fontana remains optimistic that these measures will improve cleanliness and safety in vendor-heavy areas, and will be embraced by the vendor community. 

Food trucks are important to the Hopkins campus as well. The Four Flours cookie truck is  a favorite at Back to School Bash, and Field Day also features a variety of restaurants on wheels. The food sold at these Hopkins events demonstrates why food trucks have become so popular in New Haven; the food is delicious, affordable and mobile.
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