by Joshua Maloni
Members of the Village of Lewiston's retail district met with Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce leaders Wednesday. They spoke out against the idea of permitting food trucks to operate on Center Street.
"One of my problems that I have is that, when you cultivate something and you build this great harvest, and somebody just wants to come in and pick the fruit and leave," Water Street Landing proprietor Jon DiBernardo said. "It's kind of a dangerous precedent."
He suggested food trucks have an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar eateries.
"It costs me a thousand bucks a day to turn on my lights," DiBernardo said. "A thousand bucks a day. That's it. End of story. Is he going to pay a thousand dollars before he sells his first taco? No, he's not."
The Black Market Food Truck operator Christian Willmott first presented Village of Lewiston trustees with the idea of portable dining last summer. Earlier this month, The Great Foodini owner Michael Attardo asked trustees for a facility contract to operate from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays on Center Street.
Mayor Terry Collesano tabled the food truck proposal as the board sought input from local business owners.
"We all sweat the winter. We sweat the winter so that we have the ability to reap that harvest," DiBernardo said. "Where are these guys during the winter?"
"If there's going to be a food truck, let the restaurateurs run it," he added. "I'll talk to everybody in this (village). We'll put our own Lewiston food truck out there so that we make the money off it."
Lewiston Music's Tony Petrocelli asked what harm a food truck would do if it's open when other restaurants are closed.
"From the proposal that I read, he was asking to start serving at 11 o'clock at night," Petrocelli said. "Where I would see the biggest opportunity is that it's very frustrating if everything stops serving what a lot of people consider pretty early in the village. After 11 o'clock, it's hard to get anything anyway."
DiBernardo cautioned, "Give them an inch. ..."
"To be able to show up at 11 o'clock and catch the sloppy seconds off of somebody else, I, again ... I don't think it's an even playing field," he said.
Kris Trunzo warned of the liability to the village.
"Nothing good happens after midnight," she said. "You're going to have a bunch of underage drinkers walking around tripping over (things) in every part of this village, and their parents suing."
"It's just going to be a nightmare," Trunzo added. "It's going to be a liability nightmare for the village, as well as for the restaurants."
"If twinkling LED lights are going to destroy the atmosphere of Lewiston, how is a blaring, bright food truck on every corner - which is what's going to happen if they get here - how is that going to affect the atmosphere of Lewiston?" asked Grandpaws Pet Emporium owner Andrew Bell.
"I think it's just a slap in the face to the people who work so hard 365 days a year to be here," added Angel to Apple's Jamie Symmonds.
"You want to encourage those (drunken) people to stand out on our streets?" she added. "Let's be honest: In the last few years, I feel like vandalism has kind of increased just a smidgen in this town. Could you imagine a bunch of drunken fools walking down the street and thinking it's funny to knock your furniture over?"
Rick Haight, Chamber of Commerce board chairman, said his organization does not have an official position on food trucks.
Chamber President Jennifer Pauly said, "We haven't been able to meet (with the executive board)."
She suggested Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland look into how other communities deal with food trucks.
"It's great that they did table (it)," Pauly said. "I think this was a good, healthy discussion so you can see the mix of what, specifically, the village retailers and businesses feel. I think that mix probably will carry over to the majority of the public."
Sutherland was under the weather and unable to attend the meeting. The Village Board is expected to discuss food truck dining at Monday's work session (6 p.m., Red Brick Municipal Building).