Calling it unfair to brick and mortar restaurants, a group of at least 20 local restaurateurs are dismayed at the Town Meeting article permitting food trucks to park on public streets with certain restrictions.
Peter Lovis, owner of the Cheese Shop on Walden Street, is no fan of the proposed zoning amendment.
“The biggest point is that they can come in and cherry pick the days they want to come,” said Lovis. “We are here every day; we stay open, rain or shine.”
The Town Meeting article seeks to undo the 1981 ban on mobile food establishments, allowing permits for up to 52 days a year. Food trucks for private functions are still allowed under the catering bylaws.
“We oppose changing the bylaws,” said Dave Anderson, owner of Main Streets Market on Main Street.
The article arose in the Planning Board, according to Planning Director Elizabeth Hughes, saying there have been “years of ambiguity on food trucks operating in Concord.”
“With COVID, there has been a significant increase in citizens and businesses asking why and wanting an alternative to the traditional sit-down restaurant,” Hughes added.
Town offices such as building inspection, health and planning divisions get inquiries “almost every year” about obtaining a permit, “and the Planning Board gets inquiries on why they are not permitted.”
The proposed amendment to the zoning bylaw stipulates that food trucks must be tied to an existing restaurant, though not necessarily based in Concord.
That doesn’t sit right with Twin Seafoods Manager Wally Martinson, a lifelong Concordian.
“It’s tough,” said Martinson. “I’m troubled by it.”
“I’m all for fair competition, but this is not the right set up,” said Martinson. “They can come in and park anywhere.”
Club Car Cafe owner Ron Giacoppo agrees.
“They can pull up in front of your place, open up and sell,” said Ron Giacoppo. “We’ve supported the community for 33 years.”
Anderson said it “makes sense” that private events like weddings or parties can get a permit for a truck under the catering license. It’s the food trucks on public streets that he and other restaurant owners do not favor.
Wrote Anderson, “Not too many work harder on their feet daily than restaurant staff, literally serving the community day and night, with all the challenges put to them, from the pandemic, cost of goods, labor, weather. Now is the time to step up and support your local non-chain restaurants.
Hughes said the article germinated last summer.
“Every year in June and July, the Planning Board gets input from the Building Commissioner and me on potential Zoning Bylaw amendments based on issues we have observed and/or comments and feedback we have received from the community,” she said.
“Food trucks came up again and the board determined they would draft a Zoning Bylaw amendment for consideration by Town Meeting. It is part of my job as Town Planner to assist the Board in the drafting of all proposed Zoning Bylaw amendments,” wrote Hughes.
But that hasn’t assuaged the grumbling from the town’s cafes and restaurants, 20 of which got together to protest the measure on paper.
“We pay taxes, we have employees and expenses for operation,” said Lovis. “Food trucks take the cream and leave us with skim milk. It’s just not fair.”