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Council Mulling Food Truck Ban within 1,000 Feet of Restaurants

A proposed ordinance banning food trucks from within 1,000 feet of an established restaurant could put the brakes on the food truck movement in Cranston.

Food truck operators are asking the City Council to put the brakes on a proposed ordinance that would ban food trucks from operating within 1,000 feet of brick and mortar restaurants.

The City Council's Safety Services and Licensing Committee on Monday approved the ordinance, sending it to the full council for a vote at the end of the month.

Councilman Richard Santamaria said the ordinance is admittedly a bit of protectionism, but that's the point — established restaurants pay a lot in taxes and food trucks could steal business from them, he said.

"It's just fair," Santamaria said, noting the law used to prohibit food trucks from operating within 1,000 feet of a restaurant, but it was rescinded a few years ago when one particular vendor pressured his city council member.

"We're just putting it back in," Santamaria said. "Right now, there's no radius and you can put a hot dog cart in front of Spikes."

Food truck vendors say not so fast. 

"This is a profoundly unfair ordinance," said Nicole Anderson, the owner of a coffee truck that she has registered in Cranston but sells her wares in Providence because that city has been encouraging food trucks.

"With a 1,000 feet radius, I'm at a loss to understand where there is a place for a food vendor to operate," Anderson said. "If I'm 1,000 feet from a Mexican restaurant, I'm not a threat to that business with my coffee truck."

Food truck owners are hoping the council will reduce the radius from 1,000 to about 200 feet, which they said is more reasonable. 

And food truck owners said the resistance to food trucks is based on fear, not the reality of the situation, which is that they're part of an exploding business that will be a major economic engine that could detour the city if leaders put up roadblocks.

Franke Mapes, a food truck owner who lives in Cranston, said he worked for years managing restaurants in Providence and he always told his employees that they wouldn't be there without all the other restaurants on the street.

"If there weren't a lot of choices, people wouldn't come to Thayer Street," he said. "We just want our fair share. I'd love to operate in the community I live in and the 1,000 foot rule is prohibitive."

The focal point of the confrontation could be located at Lang's Bowlarama on Niantic Avenue.

The owner there invited food truck vendors to come for a Wednesday night event every week. A total of 18 vendors have signed on in the hopes of making the parking lot in front of Lang's a hopping place throughout the summer.

But the ordinance would prevent that from happening, even if the owner of Lang's — who sells food himself — is inviting the food trucks to his property.

That's something that Councilman Mario Aceto said shouldn't be blocked.

"I don't see anything wrong with that," Aceto said. "If there's enough space and the owner invites you, I don't see the badness in that."

Councilman John E. Lanni Jr. said he understands all sides and suggested that food trucks find places in the city that don't already have a lot of restaurants that would potentially lose business. One such place would be at Hope Highlands.

What council members said they don't want happening is what florists have dealt with on holidays like Easter and Mother's day, where hawkers were selling $2 roses at the corner of Park and Reservoir Avenues in spitting distance of numerous flower shops.

Council members got a lot of calls about the hawkers and the food truck issue has gotten their phones ringing too.

Stephen Boyle, director of the Cranston Chamber of Commerce, said he's spoken to a lot of restaurant owners and said it's important to support taxpaying business in the city.

"We're in favor of this, he said. "We've got to support local businesses - the bricks and mortars that pay taxes in our city."

Food trucks must pay the city $250 to operate as an itinerant vendor plus $100 because their trucks qualify as a structure. 

But there's more than just taxes in the revenue picture, said food truck owner Val Khislavsky.

"The growth of the industry in the past few years is indicative that food trucks are on to something — it's based on demand," Khislavksy said. "It would be a mistake to not recognize that and capitalize that. I think a lot of opposition is based on fear and an old way of doing things."

Councilwoman Sarah Kales Lee said she thinks there should be some kind of exception for special events or things like the Wednesday nights for food trucks planned at Lang's Bowlarama. 

"It seems like it would be a nice event," she said, echoing statements from food truck owners who insist that they'd bring more people into the city and more attention to Cranston. The end result of that is more business for everyone.

But not everyone is convinced.

"If you put a taco truck next to Mesa Cafe, Ishmael is not going to be too thrilled about it," Boyle said.

Joe The Plumber June 05, 2013 at 01:46 PM
Government should let the free market remain "free". This council cannot even manage the city's finances but they continually interfere with private companies' business in Cranston. Cranston has become the most business unfriendly city in the most business unfriendly state in the country thanks to these clowns on the council.
Bob June 05, 2013 at 01:58 PM
"Pressured his city council member"....I'll keep that in mind next time I need something
Anyone June 05, 2013 at 02:15 PM
Isn't it up to the person who is buying the product to make the choice to eat wherever they want. Tax the food truck differently but reasonable to help offset the ridiculous taxes our small business have to pay to stay alive. Have them pay a small tax to each city they sell product in. If caught without a "registration sticker" for that city fine them. Who is going to count the distance? Is it 999'....FINED.
Stephen C. Boyle June 05, 2013 at 04:28 PM
This legislation doesn't interfere at all with private business at all in fact it protects it. We have establishments that pay significant rent and taxes on their enterprises and they deserve our support. I don't think a fee of $250.00 makes a significant impact in generating revenue for the city. Obviously, we need to find a common ground where these types of businesses can come into the city but it cant be at the expense of those people who have decided to operate a bricks and mortar restaurant or flower shop. We need to broaden the tax base in the city with the development of more businesses who are willing to locate here but be inclusive of other trends moving forward. As far as this Council being unfriendly to businesses that couldn't be further from the truth. This Council is extremely sensitive to the business community and always seeks our input on various business issues. We don't always agree but they make the effort.
Vinnie B. June 05, 2013 at 05:07 PM
People know what they want to eat. If i want Taco Bell im not going to stop at McDonalds or Pizza Hut ( both LESS than 1000 feet away). If i want a hot dog from a stand in front of spikes i should be able to have one and it should be able to be sold to me. If places like spikes are worried about a hot dog stand Stealing business that should open their eyes to the quality of food they're selling. (Spikes also uses a food truck btw). Papa Ginos, Dunkin, China Star, Spikes, BK and Walts are all less than 1000 feet apart. Whats the big deal if a food truck is added to the mix? Idiotic law. Those places open up knowing what was next door and it wasnt a problem. BEWARE of the Big Bad food truck!
Johnny June 05, 2013 at 05:31 PM
But it's not fair to the restaurant owners..."They don't have the overhead we do" wah wah wahh Same with retail and Amazon..."They don't charge tax" wahwah wahh Business plans change with the times folks. Get used to it...
Miguel June 05, 2013 at 05:45 PM
This is not a well thought out law and caters to the special interest group of restaurant owners. If these restaraunt owners focused on producing a better product than the "taco stand" nearby, people would be less likely to purchase from the taco stand. This is the nature of competition and the open market. Providence has no such rule and I don't see the restaurant economy in Providence faltering by any means.
Joe The Plumber June 05, 2013 at 06:04 PM
"This legislation doesn't interfere at all with private business at all in fact it protects it." PROTECTS IT????? Since when should government "protect" business!?!!!! That IS interference dummy!
Joe The Plumber June 05, 2013 at 06:10 PM
Government helps business most of all by just staying out of it and minimizing regulations and fees to conduct business. Plow the streets, pave the roads, improve the infrastructure, and create an honest government with good finances and low taxes. Cranston City Council would serve the business community by just doing these things and the businesses will come to Cranston. Just do not create more red tape and keep your nose out of the free enterprise of business.
Joe The Plumber June 05, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Someone on the City Council has a donor, friend, or relative who owns a restaurant and complained about this issue. That is the extent of this issue. Find the council member who sponsored it and then find the "friend" and expose it, and this will all go away.
Joe Richer June 05, 2013 at 06:52 PM
This bill is PURE protectionism for the established restaurant business and is totally unfair to the trucks. Trucks make much less money but still pay their fair share in taxes (trucks are property and are taxed). JTP is totally correct - this bill is anti-freedom and is crony-capitalism at its WORST. I'd be ASHAMED to live in a city with such blatant corruption and favoritism. Why are the rights of truck operators inferior to the rights of brick-and-mortar operators. The is the same type of government hubris that's giving us our IRS crisis. No special rights for brick-and-mortar businesses!
Joe Richer June 05, 2013 at 06:59 PM
Maybe I should go buy a food truck just so I can sue the town for violating my civil rights due to unequal protection under the law! Owners of "wheeled" businesses do not have inferior rights to "cemented" businesses. This seems trivial but is a very serious matter. Using the FORCE of government to benefit your business at the expense of another is CORRUPTION on the part of the business and the government entity pushing the inequity. Rep Santamaria you are saying that paying more taxes gives certain citizens more rights than others...you realize that don't you?
Eric W June 06, 2013 at 01:50 AM
Steven Boyle- You and I should have coffee. The chamber should not be taking a stand against hard working micro business owners.
Eric W June 06, 2013 at 01:51 AM
As an additional note! The food trucks are willing to pay the $250 in annual fees but the additional fee of $100 as a "temporary structure" is just not fair or right.
JEREMIAH June 06, 2013 at 02:27 AM
What about carnivals? What about ice cream trucks and Del's lemonade trucks?
Wake UP June 06, 2013 at 02:37 AM
Last time I checked these food trucks are businesses and therefore have to pay taxes. Why do people think they don't have to pay taxes. People need to educate themselves on the food truck industry and see how it is booming in cities all over the country. Boston has created a food truck park. Get with the program this is exactly why people are choosing to open their businesses elsewhere.
JEREMIAH June 06, 2013 at 02:39 AM
What's additionally odd about this: Lane's Bowlarama is not located within 1000 feet of any restaurant, except for Texas Roadhouse, which is ONLY within 1000 feet 'as the crow flies' but is actually 8/10ths of a mile away when driving, on the opposite side of rte. 10.
JEREMIAH June 06, 2013 at 02:43 AM
Spike's owns a mobile truck also, and I'm figuring that they wouldn't support this ban, despite being referenced in the article.
Nicole June 06, 2013 at 03:10 AM
Lang's serves food. So, even though they would close their kitchen on the night the food trucks would be invited to be there, it is quite ironically their own kitchen that would cause the trucks to violate the 1000 foot radius. And the radius is drawn "as the crow flies" so if Texas Roadhouse is within that radius, that is going to be a problem for the trucks, too.
Jay Pulaski June 06, 2013 at 04:23 AM
This wreaks of corruption! But a corrupt councilman shouldn't surprise anyone should it? The fact that the director of the chamber of commerce could support this is absurd. Maybe Mr. Boyle should tell Mr. Santamaria what his favorite restaurant is. Then Mr. Santamaria could introduce a bill to make it the only restaurant in Cranston. It could just be called "restaurant" because it would be the only one. We could do the same thing with other businesses too. We'd have "dry cleaner" and "grocery store" and "liquor store" and "beauty salon" and "barber shop". Oh wait, maybe we shouldn't have a beauty salon and a barber shop. That's too much competition. How about just "groomer"? If we can't decide which liquor store or which dry cleaner gets the nod, we'll just go with whoever gives the biggest bag of cash to Mr. Santamaria. Sound good? Then when we're done with that we can move on to the next big competition issue. Lets ban the Internet!
Joe Boisvert "ocean state concessions" June 13, 2013 at 01:02 AM
Eric w offering his "we should have a coffee" lol! Some of these food trucks rent from a commissary in Cranston, we employ Cranston based workers, we ALL shop at restaraunt depot (a MAJOR Cranston business) we own homes in Cranston, pay state and city taxes. Cranston Commerce mr Boyle thinks we're creditors??? Do your home work sir. Who are you to interfere with free enterprise? LET THESE ENTREPRENEURS SHINE, LET THE CUSTOMER DECIDE, and if not....... My food truck park just broke ground......Niantic ave...PROVIDENCE! Right over the Cranston line, and we will take Cranston money all day, and give taxes generated to Providence.
Joe Boisvert "ocean state concessions" June 13, 2013 at 03:15 AM
And on a second note. It has been proposed by Councilman John E Lanni to set up shop for food trucks in hope highlands?....lol last I checked that's where all the successful restaurant owners live. How long would that last before an individual "pressured his councilman" into changing those rules? And what type of walking traffic and retail traffic should the trucks expect in that area to thrive? I think everyone in the business has heard the old adage "location, location, location....." When did local government get into the business of designating businesses? This is CLEARLY UNFAIR AND UNETHICAL.
Joe Boisvert "ocean state concessions" June 13, 2013 at 10:52 AM
Ps Santamaria you can't put a hot dog cart in front of Spikes. You would need the permission to be on the property. Other than that you'd have to be on the sidewalk and move on after you made a sale. That's what a peddlers license is. Learn the rules before you bend them to better your cause.
Joe Boisvert "ocean state concessions" June 13, 2013 at 11:08 AM
I invite you all to come to my kitchen and watch the all that these people , mostly JW students or grads, prep and cook. It would tantalize you to buy from these trucks the smells and sights of foods they make is amazing. Braised short rib sandwiches made on a fresh pretzel roll with a bacon aioli pressed in a Pannini grill, a tofu chicken pot pie that fools even a 10 year old thinking its chicken, tacos made fresh to order with the freshest ingredients, a pulled pork Pannini on fresh focaccia with fresh cole slaw and fried pickles.... The real reason Cranston "brick and mortar" businesses are threatened is because they would have to "take it up a notch" to compete. Free enterprise built this country. We are not interested in putting businesses out, we are just looking to fit in.
Joe Richer June 13, 2013 at 12:41 PM
I am with you Joe...and all business owners. Competition built this country. It is not to be feared, it is to be CELEBRATED.
Eric W June 13, 2013 at 08:50 PM
I am confident and believe that when this comes in front of the full board on June 24th they will make the proper amendments so that it passes in a fair and reasonable way. The food trucks would be satisfied, yet not happy, with a requirement to park further than 200 feet from a restaurant that is open and serving. Should easily be able to park on private property with permission from the owner, and should never have to pay an additional $100 license for being a "temporary structure". I still believe that the full board will make the changes that makes no one happy which means it is probably fair!
Joe Boisvert "ocean state concessions" June 14, 2013 at 07:21 PM
i meant to say predators, not creditors. Thats the classification we were given by Sir Stephen Boyle.....
Eric W August 05, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Support the food trucks tonight at Cranston City Hall. Monday night at 7:30pm! http://www.cranstonri.com/pdf/calendar_meetings/2013_08_05_
Joe The Plumber August 05, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Cranston has now become the haven of special interests. The most corrupt and anti-business city in the country.

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