Situated at the foot of Science Hill, Joe Grate’s BBQ food truck has been serving up pulled pork, fries and beans to hungry Yalies for the past five years. But facing the prospect of new regulations from City Hall, Grate and other vendors are weighing their options.
Regulations proposed by offices in City Hall, but not yet approved by the Board of Alders, would move Ingalls Rink vendors to the sidewalk and only permit carts to vend there, not food trucks. As a result, Grate would have to buy a permit to vend downtown if he wanted to continue operating his truck in the city. Steve Fontana, New Haven’s deputy economic development director, aims for the Board of Alders to have a public hearing in September and a vote to follow in October, with an implementation by Jan. 1 of next year.
Vendors at Ingalls Rink have been paying roughly $100 per month in parking fees to Yale. All vendors in the city now pay a $200 vending license and $250 yearly fee to New Haven’s Health Department. Under the new rules, carts on the Ingalls Rink sidewalk would pay roughly $1,000, while trucks downtown would pay $2,000 for a license downtown.
Almost all the other vendors in Ingalls Rink are carts, though, and would just move onto the sidewalk if the new proposals are implemented, where they would pay the $1,000 fee. But trucks would have to move farther away from their original locations to designated areas downtown or at Long Wharf.
The change would more than double Grate’s fixed costs to vend, leading him to consider leaving New Haven, where he has served BBQ for three decades, said Grate, an 83-year-old South Carolina native.
“The city wants to charge astronomical amounts of money to park,” he said. “I’m not going to do it. Maybe if I were younger I’d fight it. But I feel like small fry in the scheme of things.”
The chief concern for other vendors interviewed is how the city will distribute permits and allocate different locations. Permit distribution could determine the future of businesses by determining whether they can still sell at Ingalls Rink and what the competition will look like, said Israel Campos, owner of El Poblano Mexican food cart.
According to the preliminary plans, permit preferences at Ingalls Rink would be given to carts already selling there, Fontana said in a Thursday afternoon email to the News. The remaining spots would be distributed via random lottery process, he said.
Downtown, where Joe Grate’s BBQ would have to move from, applicants will be assigned a number from a lottery and choose spots according to their draw. Those unhappy with the spots left can decline a license, Fontana said.
He added that downtown will likely provide a mix of both fixed locations and floating spots — where trucks with those permits will be able to park.
The money earned from the new permit would also pay for a regulator to oversee food trucks and also to clean up after the trucks, Fontana said. He added in a late-August interview that concerned owners should contact his office.