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Council debates allowing food trucks on city property

By Kendra Caruso | Jun 19, 2020
Source: File photo Last year Sadie Samuels opened her lobster rolls food truck on private property along the Harbor Walk.

Belfast — City councilors have decided not to allow food trucks on public property this summer.

During the council's June 16 meeting, City Manager Erin Herbig said she had been approached by food truck owners and farm vendors interested in using city property. She said currently there are five food trucks around the city on private property. She proposed that the trucks be treated as an extension of Curbside Belfast, an ordinance that allows businesses to use city property during the coronavirus pandemic.

Councilors were concerned that food trucks could be too competitive for brick and mortar restaurants that are trying to recover lost profits from being shut down because of the virus. They expressed interest in the idea for next summer.

Food trucks are still allowed on private property, but councilors did not think it was fair that they compete on city property with restaurants that “pay taxes.” City Councilor Mary Mortier said she did not like the idea of food trucks on city property because the city has “less control.”

She said allowing food trucks on city property this summer would be a death knell for struggling businesses.

Councilor Neal Harkeness said he thinks food trucks are a sign of vibrancy in a city or town. He said businesses don’t have a right to no competition, but thinks allowing food trucks on city property would give them an unfair advantage over tax-paying restaurants. He later clarified in an email that food trucks typically pay significantly less property tax than brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Mayor Eric Sanders disagreed with councilors, saying food trucks would offer more competition downtown that could draw more people to the area. He said having people wanting to do more business downtown is a good problem to have.

Councilor Mike Hurley said food trucks' revenue has been heavily impacted because of canceled events, but agreed with his colleagues that it was not the right time to permit food trucks on city property.

Councilors were interested in the option of permitting food trucks in City Park, away from downtown restaurants. Harkness said the park vendors from last year decided not to renew their lease, so he would like to see a business go in there.

Herbig said she would discuss with the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce options for permitting food trucks on city property next summer.

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