Is New Canaan ready for food trucks?
Published 11:03 am, Wednesday, April 17, 2013
It could be a while before New Canaanites can grab a quick bite on the street.
At its meeting on Friday, April 12, the Board of Selectmen heard arguments for and against allowing food trucks in town.
"We're really in a dilemma here," Briggs Geddis, the director of environmental health for the Health Department, said. "We understand the charm of carts on the sidewalks as kind of a New England situation, but we have to look at it from a health basis."
First Selectman Robert Mallozzi explained that he and Administrative Officer Tom Stadler are looking to draft an official policy on food trucks, as the town has been getting more and more requests by potential operators.
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"Over the five years I've been here, we've had an occasional fellow going around," Stadler said. "But this year we've had two or three requests for food trucks, either motorized or by foot."
Geddis argued that restaurants have had to meet strict requirements set by the Health Department, including one instance in which Chef Luis Restaurant had to pay $40,000 to install screens in its kitchen. Geddis was unsure how the department could demand strict regulations that prohibit established restaurants from preparing food in an open-air environment, while giving the food trucks a pass on those same rules.
"(It's) not apples to apples. A hot dog cart does have a sink and an umbrella that covers the whole cart," said Toby Weisbrot, a Stamford resident who has worked in New Canaan for 15 years and would like to run a food truck here. "We're talking about hot dogs."
Selectman Nick Williams, expressing his appreciation for hot dogs, was split on the issue.
"I'm generally supportive of this. I spent three years at Columbia Law School living off hot dogs from the vendor across the street," he said, later expressing sympathy on the issue of fairness regarding whether carts should have health regulations waived while they are enforced for established restaurants.
Geddis was also concerned about whether or not the carts would stick to the basics.
"As we all know, it starts with hot dogs then hamburgers, and pretty soon it's a full deal."
Mallozzi said the town would look to draft a formal procedure for accepting or denying food truck requests in the coming months.
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