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Ordinance passes to regulate food trucks

Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 08:11


Sofia Adams for the Tufts Daily

The Somerville Board of Aldermen last month approved an ordinance that requires food trucks to apply for licenses from the city, among other regulations.

The Somerville Board of Aldermen on Oct. 25 passed an ordinance to regulate the operations of food trucks in the city.

The debate to write an ordinance began approximately eight months ago and brought to the Board’s attention that the city had no rules in place for food trucks, according to Ward 7 Alderman Bob Trane.

Potential food trucks in Somerville must now comply with requirements outlined by the Board and submit an application for a license, according to Alderman at Large Bill White. Food trucks must also undergo a public hearing with the Board, which will look at a number of factors before issuing approval, including the location that the food truck applies to be stationed at, health and safety standards and business hours.

Each food truck will be reviewed on a case−by−case basis, Trane said.

Until the passage of the ordinance, food trucks were allowed to operate at any time or location, Trane said. The Board now has more of a say in where food trucks may go and their hours of operation, according to Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente.

For example, food trucks now are not allowed to operate outside the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. unless the owners receive a special permit. In addition, food trucks must remain in one location and are prohibited from moving around, Trane said.

“They can’t keep bouncing all over the place or go willy−nilly in a different spot,” he told the Daily.

Food trucks must also conform to health and safety requirements before receiving a license, White said.

Lafuente added that the Board of Aldermen seeks to avoid complaints about generator noises and food smells.

“We’re going to control as much as we can,” he said.

The Board will also evaluate the impact that a food truck might have on existing businesses in specific locations. One of the main concerns that propelled the debate for a new ordinance was food trucks’ potential threat to local businesses, White said. The ordinance will favor restaurants that have been in business for a long time, and food trucks will not be allowed in Davis Square in order to preserve the local eateries.

Before the passage of the new ordinance, food trucks received their licenses under a different ordinance designed for hawkers and peddlers, which was not specific to food trucks, according to White. Very few licenses were issued under that ordinance, he added.

“It didn’t have the same extensive regulations that we have now,” White told the Daily. “Some of the food trucks may have had licenses from the state and didn’t think they needed one from the city.”

Current food trucks with an existing license will be grandfathered in. When the license expires, they will be required to apply under the new ordinance, White said.

Moe Stewart, the owner of Moe’s BBQ Trolley that has been in operation for seven years and stations itself on campus at Packard Avenue on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, said that his food truck will not face any new changes with the ordinance. He said he is in favor of the new ordinance, noting that food trucks used to have to move around every 20 minutes.

“I told [The Board of Alderman] they had to have [the ordinance],” Stewart told the Daily.

Although the new guidelines state that food trucks must have special permission to operate after 9 p.m., Moe said the new ordinance will not pose a problem for the operation of his food truck in the evenings.

“I’ve always had permission,” he said.

Since the passage of the new ordinance, no potential food trucks have applied for a license yet.

“But [the process] shouldn’t be bad,” White said.

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