Two weeks after the New Haven Building Department stepped up its enforcement of food vendor ordinances, the College Street landscape has drastically changed.
After a city building official notified several campus food trucks that they could no longer operate in their previous locations, the Ay! Arepa food truck has found a new home in front of Trumbull College on York Street. But the two blocks of College Street in front of Cross Campus and Silliman College — the former home of The Cheese Truck and Chief Brody’s Banh Mi truck — are now completely off limits to food trucks and carts. According to city regulations, food trucks and carts have not been allowed to operate in residential zones, a rule that has recently been reinforced by city administrators. Before a building department official approached food trucks two weeks ago, at least four had operated in their previous locations for years without being notified they were in a residential zone. Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson said staff shuffling in the building department meant that food truck regulation relaxed over the last few years. James Turcio, who was promoted to head the department in February, amped up the department’s oversight, Nemerson said.
A few weeks ago, Turcio realized several popular food trucks had been operating in residential zones, Nemerson said. He added Turcio was then obligated to notify the vendors.
“We didn’t know [of the violations],” Nemerson said. “But then we discovered it, so now we have to enforce the rules.”
More changes in the city’s regulation of food trucks are in the works for the upcoming years. Over the past year, city officials have been in talks about developing a new set of rules for food trucks in response to the growing number of trucks in the city, Nemerson said.
During the process of creating new regulations, food truck owners could possibly petition for rezoning, Nemerson said. But rezoning can be a complicated and arduous process, he added.
In the meantime, vendors are struggling to find new locations for their trucks.
“So, what are we going to do?” Chief Brody’s owner Greg Martell said. “As we figure out the best place to go and the best place of action, I don’t really know.”
Ay! Arepa owner Ernesto Garcia said city officials helped the truck find a new, lawful location in front of Gant on York Street.
Martell and the owner of The Cheese Truck are in talks with city officials who will help them determine the most profitable new locations to operate downtown, they said. Martell said city economic development officials are helping several carts locate alternate spaces, but that outcomes remain uncertain for the trucks. City officials have also suggested that his truck may have to wait months before it could reach a resolution with officials over a new downtown location.
Though the vending regulations apply to food carts as well as trucks, Adil Chokairy, who owns and operates the Crepe Cart on the corner of College and Wall Streets, said he has not been approached by city officials about relocating his cart. The cart opened for usual business hours Monday. Chokairy speculated that because the Crepe Cart received permission to operate on the sidewalk of University property, it may be subject to a different set of guidelines, whereas other carts that operate independently on the streets would fall under the city’s jurisdiction.
“Yale invited us to serve on our location at College and Wall,” Chokairy said.
Yale spokesman Michael Morand declined to comment on whether city zoning rules apply to vendors that are located on University property.
Caseus, The Cheese Truck’s brick-and-mortar location, is at 93 Whitney Ave.