The New Haven Board of Alders unanimously voted to overhaul the Elm City’s food vendor rules on Monday night.
The regulations, which have been nearly three years in the making, will establish new vending districts throughout the city, including on Sachem Street and downtown. With the revenue generated by new vendor and parking fees, the city aims to create a full-time position within the Building Department to keep food vendors in compliance with new cleanliness laws and to ensure they operate within their specified zones. The bill’s final version came after months of public hearings and private encounters between city officials and food vendors. Still, the new bill quickly drew criticism from food truck vendors, who expressed concerns about customer safety and their business post-move.
The piece of legislation now goes to the desk of Mayor Toni Harp, who must sign it into law.
“The mayor is looking forward to adoption, and the mayor is confident that [the ordinances] will help the city move forward,” Grotheer said on Friday.
Steve Fontana, New Haven’s deputy economic development director and City Hall’s lead man on the food vendor project, told the News after Monday’s meeting that the goal is to start implementing the new ordinances right away. The city will start by drafting regulations in accordance to the ordinances. Then, the project will move from indoors to outdoors as the city works to develop the needed pavement and signage for the new special vendor districts. Eventually, vendors will apply for the new licenses and the city will assign those retailers to their district and parking space.
For Yale students, this means that food vendors will move off the Ingalls Rink parking lot by Aug. 15. By then, Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin colleges should be completed and the Sachem Street Special Vending District between Ingalls Rink and Murray will be open. The Sachem Street district will attract many of the same carts that were near Ingalls Rink, according to food vendors in the area.
Three additional food vendor districts are scheduled for full implementation by July 1.
Some vendors will accept the changes reluctantly. Many of the vendors gathered hundreds of customers’ signatures to show support for the Ingalls Rink location, and vendors and customers interviewed expressed preference for Ingalls Rink due to its accessibility and perceived safety.
When carts move slightly south in the summer, Mecha-Uma Owner Abbo Hirata said he is worried about customer safety. With long lines of people weaving through the Ingalls Rink lot during lunch hour, he thinks the same situation at the Sachem Street district may spell danger. Hirata said that if there are too many customers in the area, some might spill over into the street.
Lali Grill Manager Shilmat Tessema agreed.
“It is a big deal,” she said. “It’s not safe for our customers or for the venue. We would like to stay here, for our customers and for ourselves.”
Some of those customers, however, may not frequent the vendors as often. Zachary Schatz, who attends Albertus Magnus College, drives to those food carts a few times a week. But when they move this summer, he anticipates difficulties parking and will not visit them as often, he said.
Popular vendors who sell outside the Ingalls Rink lot are worried about the changes as well.
Andrew Mesiouris, who co-owns Jitter Bus, the coffee bus near the intersection of Hillhouse Avenue and Grove Street, hopes his truck will be able to keep its location. After conversations with city officials, Mesiouris said he will likely keep the spot, although a few other food vendors might be allowed to sell food beside him.
As a food truck, Jitter Bus will foot a higher bill with the new ordinances. Previous drafts of the legislation proposed charging food trucks $2,500 for annual parking, but the version passed on Monday night did not specify the charge’s amount.
“There was outrage at the original prices, I’m not happy about [the ordinances],” Mesiouris said. “I think the outrage has been tempered by time. It just doesn’t seem like there is anything we can do about it. It’s just going to happen.”