LEWISTON – After a negative response from business owners, the Village Board gave the thumbs down Monday to a request from Michael Attardo, the owner/operator of a food truck called The Great Foodini, to operate after hours on weekends on Center Street.
Lower Niagara River Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Pauly said local businesses met to discuss the issue prior to the meeting and were overwhelmingly against bringing food trucks into the village.
Former Mayor Richard Soluri said he has always been pro business and congratulated Attardo for his ambition, but in this case he could not support Attardo’s proposal.
“I’m thinking back to all the years devoted to making the village the best it could be and the investment that was made by all of the standing restaurants here,” said Soluri. “We have to protect the brick-and- mortar places – the heavy investments and mortgages. Every little bit against that hurts.”
“I don’t think this community is the size for food trucks,” he added. “We have a lot of festivals and that is the place for the food trucks.”
Mayor Terry Collesano agreed with the former mayor.
“We are not a Buffalo. If we were a large metropolis maybe we could do it,” said Collesano. “The restaurants have too much of an investment and for someone else to come and reap the benefits is not fair.”
Trustee Bruce Sutherland said there is also a start-up restaurant that is proposing opening after hours and the truck would be in direct competition.
Attardo, of Ransomville, said he started his truck in August and has been traveling to private parties and festivals, but had hoped to regularly operate an after-hours truck from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays on Center Street in the village.
“I’m not really surprised at the reaction from the brick-and-mortar restaurants. My proposal was to be here after they closed, not take anything away from them,” said Attardo.
He said he had hoped to appeal to a younger crowd looking for food when bars are open, but restaurants are closed. Attardo said these young people are forced to drive to Niagara Falls to get something to eat, rather than stay in the local area.
He said the The Great Foodini truck serves “made-from-scratch meals” from the truck with stone-baked pizza and other items like shrimp po’ boys, buttermilk biscuits, and strawberry shortcake.
He said he will be setting up at Orchard Park on Wednesdays and in Williamsville and Amherst, in areas where they already have food trucks. He said he will be back for the Lewiston festivals and other Niagara County events.
“We just got started,” said Attardo, a Lewiston-Porter graduate, a former chef at the Red Coach Inn and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
“I’ve been in the area and was just trying to bring something back.”
In other business, the Village Board raised Lewiston Landing launch fees. The daily fee will increase to $8 from $7, and now will include small craft such as kayaks, canoes and jet skis, which had previously been exempt, but could often tie up the launch.
“It was a problem. They would show up with 26 kayaks at one time and occupy the launch for an hour and other boats couldn’t get down,” said Sutherland.