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Village of Lewiston puts kibosh on food trucks

by jmaloni
Tue, Feb 4th 2014 07:00 am

by Joshua Maloni

Food truck owners will have to park their mobile eateries someplace else.

After receiving feedback from local business owners opposed to food trucks, Village of Lewiston trustees let it be known they will not allow such an operation.

"I think our minds are pretty much made up," Mayor Terry Collesano told members of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce prior to the trustees' monthly work session Monday.

When the meeting began, former Mayor Richard Soluri spoke of the village's existing restaurant owners' investment in Lewiston, and what it takes to remain in business in good times and bad.

"I don't think this community is the size for food trucks," he said.

"We have to protect the brick-and-mortar places that have investments, that have mortgages. And every little bit against that hurts," Soluri added. "I'm adamantly against food trucks. Unless we become a metropolis of 100,000 people, or something, then it would make sense. ... Sometimes things just don't fit. And you wouldn't want to force it."

 Collesano agreed.

"The feeling is overwhelmingly against food trucks coming into the village - at least at this time," he said.

"Being small, and the investment that our local restaurants have in this community, is just too much of an investment for them - for someone else to come in and reap the benefits," Collesano added. "It's not fair. It's not fair to the local restaurants."

Trustee Nick Conde said, "I'd be sensitive to the owners of the existing businesses, you know, the brick-and-mortar buildings ... and not go for it."

In January, The Great Foodini owner Michael Attardo requested a facility service contract to operate from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays on Center Street. Attardo chose those hours, he said, so as to not compete with village restaurants.

On Monday, he thanked the board for considering his request, and said, "I was here not to step on toes, and not to take anything away from local businesses. And try to work after-hours and bring something else to the community."

Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland acknowledged most restaurants would be closed during the time The Great Foodini or another food truck would operate. But he also said a handful of places are open late at night, and one, The Spicey Pickle, is about to open this month with a late-night menu.

"That new business coming in, that's going to be their main concern, is staying open on weekends later to garner that crowd - that late-night crowd," he said. "It would be really detrimental ... as a brick-and-mortar start-up business ... if there were (a food truck)."

"Maybe down the road there'll be a spot and a place and an opportunity for food trucks?" Sutherland said. "At this point, I don't see it."

Collesano suggested Attardo bring his food truck to the village's festivals. The Great Foodini did operate at last year's Harvest Festival and Peach Festival.

Attardo has been operating at festivals and private events in Niagara County. He plans to bring The Great Foodini to Wurlitzer Park in Tonawanda (every Wednesday) and into Williamsville and Amherst.

He may look into operating in other areas of the River Region, too.

Last week, retail and restaurant owners spoke out against food trucks in a meeting with Chamber of Commerce leadership. Water Street Landing proprietor Jon DiBernardo's comment became a mantra for the opposition. He said, "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. It's kind of a dangerous precedent."

•Trustees adjusted the Lewiston Landing fee schedule for the first time in more than five years. The daily launch pass will go from $7 to $8 per vessel, the daily charter from $30 to $40, commercial launch from $140 to $150 annually, and non-commercial from $70 to $80 annually.

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