Given the ongoing food vendor surge throughout New Haven, the New Haven Economic Development Administration hopes to soon modernize the city’s outdated food vendor regulations.
The Board of Alders Legislation Committee held a public meeting on Jan. 12 about the proposed regulations, bringing the city one step closer to passage and implementation. The proposed rules would assign zones to food vendors, mitigate public health and safety concerns and increase fairness between food vendors and “brick-and-mortar” restaurants.
City Hall conversations about new food vendor rules originally brewed in September 2014, and the New Haven Economic Development Administration has continuously sought opinions from lawmakers, vendors and residents.
“When we get new feedback, we try to incorporate that into what we are doing,” said Steve Fontana, New Haven’s deputy director of economic development.
For a permit in the Long Wharf district, the EDA initially proposed a $5,100 annual fee. Previously, food vendors in New Haven were charged about $450 on average. Eventually, the proposed fee dropped to $4,250 after conversations with food truck owners.
The most recent proposal would charge food trucks, which must rest in designated parking spaces, $2,500 to occupy their sites. This change would submit to the requests made by many food vendors to equalize the fee with the Downtown district, Fontana said.
For carts that are able to fit on a sidewalk, the license fee would cost $1,000 for locations on Sachem Street near Ingalls Rink and on Cedar Street near Yale New Haven Hospital.
In addition to charging fees, the city wanted to help human and environmental health with the new regulations, Hill Alder Dolores Colón said. She added that the laws would allow for a sanitarian to inspect food carts regularly and curb pollution by mandating Long Wharf food trucks to cut fuel emissions. Instead, the vendors would need to purchase electricity from the city’s grid for $500 a year.
Originally, there were disagreements about which food vendors would be allowed a permit and which would be next in line to buy a permit, Colón said. But after feedback from food truck owners, the city addressed the problem for newer vendors by proposing a lottery system instead of an auction when demand for spaces exceeds supply, Fontana said.
The food vendor ordinances were last rewritten in 2001. But in the past decade, the amount and variety of food trucks has drastically increased, Colón said. As a result, the outdated ordinances fail to address the multitude of vendors and complications they bring, New Haven Building Department Director Jim Turcio said in an interview with the News last year.
To update the rules, city officials studied the food vendor industry in bigger cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Boston and brought some of the successes there to New Haven, Colón said.
The proposed regulations, however, have been held up by the Board of Alders for nearly a year as the EDA continues to tweak the ordinances to better suit the city. Although the original goal was to implement the new rules by June 1, 2016, and then by Jan. 1, the earliest possible date the city could begin regulation is this spring – but only if the Board of Alders Legislation Committee deems the ordinances favorable at its next meeting and the board approves the rules.
The wait has seen payoffs, however, as more and more vendors accept the ordinances.
Adil Chokairy, who owns the food carts Crêpes Choupette and Raclette Les 4 Vallées, said he respects the city’s incoming regulations. Chokairy added that he will move his food carts to a legal spot near Yale’s campus, perhaps on Sachem Street near Ingalls Rink.
Most of the original disagreements, Colón said, have been mended.
“They’ve smoked the peace pipe and everyone is happy,” she said.