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As food trucks gain in popularity, Lancaster village eye tweaks to law

Food trucks currently making inroads in Williamsville also are making tracks to Lancaster.

Lancaster government leaders want to vet any concerns from owners of the restaurants on wheels and the public as they try to strike a balance between the food trucks and yet have a level playing field for village eateries.

“It’s the way of the future, just like Pokemon Go. It’s like Food Truck Go,” said Dawn Gaczewski, village special events coordinator who works closely with the food truck vendors coming to town. “It is a new and upcoming thing, and we need to make sure everyone is happy across the board, but yet not inhibit the health and safety, nor the sales of current merchants.”

Lancaster’s review comes on the heels of Williamsville officials weighing food truck regulations about a month ago. But unlike Williamsville, the Village of Lancaster already has a policy on its books. More than a year ago, officials adopted an ordinance covering mobile restaurants.

But village leaders now believe they need to tweak the year-old ordinance to accommodate food trucks frequenting village-sponsored events, private parties or other activities, as is happening more frequently.

“This food truck industry is fantastic, but it’s still brand new,” said Gaczewski, a town councilwoman who sees a growing interest in food trucks as she coordinates events including the popular Car Show, Fourth of July festivities, the Taste of Lancaster on Aug. 5-6 and Christmasville.

Some food truck vendors who do business in the village have indicated they would like changes to the rules. Village officials are seeking their input and the public’s during a special work session scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday. Some vendors believe the yearly permit fee is high. Village officials have other concerns, including when food trucks are booked for private gatherings.

Mobile food vendors who want to participate in only one of the many village-sponsored events pay a fee ranging from $185 upward instead of buying a yearly $250 permit. Gaczewski said it might be worth proposing a day fee of about $125 if a food truck does a charity event or bank employee appreciation day instead of vendors having to pay $250 for an annual permit.

Lancaster’s yearly permit requires Village Board approval and restricts food trucks from doing business within 100 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

While backers say the restrictions make sense, others see some as too rigid and want a lower annual permit fee and no clampdown on how food trucks operate when catering on private property.

“We’re looking at the policies and procedures and have some concerns from vendors,” Mayor Paul Maute said. “The Village of Lancaster understands that we have a code. We can tweak it ... but it’s not our top priority. We need to make sure some understand the village code.”

Even so, Gaczewski thinks food trucks could take off even more than they already have.

“For next year’s event series, I’d like to see a ‘little Larkinville’ in downtown Lancaster,” she Gaczewski, referring to Buffalo’s popular outdoor gathering spot and suggesting a food truck corral sanctioned as a village event.

“I just went to Larkinville for the first time last week, and it was great jazz music, and all these trucks. It was really nice.”

Jon Rowan, owner of Cheesy Chik Food Truck. a Larkinville regular and seasoned food truck operator, loves bringing his mobile restaurant to Lancaster but doesn’t think government should regulate the food truck business at private homes.

“We’ve had no problems with Lancaster,” said Rowan, adding that he is working on building support for a county-level policy that would cover all the municipalities.

“But catering restrictions are pushing the line. It’s private property.

“We should be able to do this safely,” he said, noting his operations undergo regular fire and safety inspections. “I don’t think there’s any need for a public entity to know where we are on private property. Some of this is common sense stuff: not parking on a busy street and having windows facing away from traffic.”

Gaczewski believes the $250 annual permit fee for food truck vendors is too high.

“It’s difficult for them because they are in business to make money and they’re trying to feed their families,” she said.

She also said food truck legislation for the town should be similar to the village’s rules.

“We’re working with the village to mirror the same issues. So the village one has to be fine-tuned before the town can develop its own,” she said. “We want to accommodate these people because it’s an up and coming business and also is entrepreneurship, and we certainly don’t want to quash that or the brick- and-mortar businesses.”


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