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Food Truck Pilot Program Gets Rolling in April

Selectmen approve a 6-month pilot program to welcome food vendor trucks into Brookline, with location details still to be finalized.

In April, a few Brookline neighborhoods may see crowds gathering outside food trucks, thanks to a unanimous vote to at last night's Board of Selectmen meeting. That is, a vote on the program's regulations, as the locations are still being finalized. 

"I'm excited that we’re able to move forward on this and have a true six-month pilot," said Selectman Jesse Mermell, "it will give an appropriate snapshot of the program."

Mermell added that she hopes Brookline will become "a food truck destination." 

With the regulations approved, Public Health Director Dr. Alan Balsam reports that he applications will go out this week, and that the Health Department expects to have applicants selected and rolling in by April.

Since the last meeting, Balsam reports that a few minor changes were made to the program. They adjusted the fee structure, and--per Selectman Nancy Daly's suggestion--improved the criteria related to the nutritional value of served foods.

Balsam also reported that Economic Development Officer Kara Brewton has been "setting the table" for more locations around town, such as spaces on private land.

The list of spaces has not yet been made final. Currently included: on-street at Auburn and Harvard Streets (opposite ), space on St. Mary's Street near Boston University, and three spots near the , as well as ,  and two at . 

"I'm concerned with having folks apply without knowing what locations are available," observed Selectman Betsy DeWitt, pointing out that the locations have not yet been finalized. Meaning that some food truck operators may be applying for locations, only to find out those locations are not available.

She initially asked for a vote to approve the final list of locations, but Dr. Balsam felt that approving the locations could delay the application process. He also noted that starting this program will call for a certain amount of interplay between those organizing the pilot and the vendors. 

He explained, "It’s a bit of an art, here--a moving target. I’d like to say we’ll have it all nailed down beforehand, but I don’t think we will have it all nailed down."

Selectman Mermell added that the vendors should be aware that they are applying to a pilot program, and that these types of programs tend to be fluid. She noted that, "in an ideal world," these locations would already be clearly defined. 

"What I heard loud and clear from them [food truck representatives at the ] was that there is going to need to be some flexibility." Added Selectman Ken Goldstein, "that’s why these things are on wheels--they move from place to place."

At that previous, President of the Boston Area Food Truck Association Ron Sarni also dropped a few names he said are considering food trucks:  and  of Wellesley. 

Despite concerns over the locations, the regulations for the program were unanimously approved. The Health Department is sending out applications for the program today. 

Bill Davidson January 26, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Has there been any opposition from local restaurants regarding proposed food truck locations? Would any of the St. Mary's Street/Beacon Inn locations put food trucks in direct competition with Brookline businesses?
Grahame Turner January 26, 2012 at 06:46 PM
There have been two public meetings about food trucks, no one from the restaurants were there. In my slightly-limited experience, I note that business owners in town tend to be fairly active when there's a concern to their business; not saying that's a definite sign that they're "cool" with it, but I also haven't heard of any opposition. However, competition is a factor in both the Selectmen's approval process for individual trucks and their decision on whether this shifts from being a pilot program to a recurring program.
MoonBeamWatcher January 26, 2012 at 11:52 PM
One of the reasons for BANKS, COFFEE Shops and Drug Stores being the largest renters (tax payers) in town is the RENTS which require a tremendous volume in sales or ownership of your store, like IRVING's. Which is a labor of love for Ethel. I once told her that a ice cream truck was parked in front of the Devotion and was cutting into her business. She didn't care as she owns her store and loves "her kids" the students from Devotion. But others who have to pay rent and the property tax along with heat and electric - Where is the fairness to the BRICK and MORTAR store?
Grahame Turner January 30, 2012 at 02:59 PM
That's one of the concerns of the Selectmen with this program. It's currently a pilot program--it will continue, if it goes off without significantly affecting the brick-and-mortar businesses (I believe it was Selectman Goldstein who, at the early Jan. meeting called them "the goose that laid the golden egg"). Not to mention Paris Creperie's representatives, who commented that, as long as it's not doubling up the cuisine at a standing restaurant, the food truck can actually create a fusion. One of the considerations in assigning places for food trucks is existing businesses in the area.

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