Certain areas of Brookline could start to see food trucks pulling up during the spring and summer, under a proposed pilot program the Selectmen are currently considering.
“Anyone who doesn’t live in a cave knows that mobile food trucks are a phenomenon," began the presentation by Dr. Alan Balsam, director of the Public Health Department.
The pilot program welcomes food trucks into town for a six-month trial period, but only to select areas. Select trucks will be licensed — based on criteria which the Board is still developing — with the goal of variety without damaging existing businesses.
Currently being considered: on-street at Auburn and Harvard Streets (opposite ), space on St. Mary's Street near Boston University, and space near the , as well as , and .
"It seems fundamentally weird to me that we don’t have locations in Washington Square, Coolidge Corner or Brookline Village." Selectman Jesse Mermell pointed out "We do have foot traffic by Auburn Street — and the parks are a great idea — but it just seems like we’re missing an opportunity to make this program successful by missing some of these high-traffic areas."
One suggested location is at 2 Brookline Place, where an office tower is served by a small number of lunch locations. The selectmen suggested pushing for this location as well.
See the map at right for possible food truck spots.
"We want this to be successful. On the other hand, we didn’t want to alienate the brick-and-mortar restaurants. So, we are taking it slow." Town Administrator Mel Kleckner responded, "we hope it’s not too limited, but we thought that if we selected some of these high-traffic areas, some of the political concerns could blow this program out of the water before it got started."
The program will license these vehicles, and use the six-month period to examine the impact of food trucks. The original plan was for a three-month period, but the licensing board suggested it be expanded to get a wider perspective.
Dr. Balsam described the collaborative process of creating the proposal, one which spans a number of town departments--public health, licensing, police and fire to name a few. From a health perspective, he said, regulations are actually straightforward, the question is of location.
"We don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg," said Balsam, referring to Brookline's established restaurants "With an eye toward that, tried to create a pilot program that wouldn’t create a problem."
Economic Development Director Kara Brewton said that she and Ann Meyers of the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) "pounded a lot of pavement," to ask restaranteurs about incoming food trucks. She reports that many owners would accept food trucks, provided the trucks aren't parked outside their doors.
Brewton and Meyers also found a handful of Brookline restaurants that are considering opening food trucks of their own. Representatives from one such restaurant were at the meeting:
Henry Patterson, finance manager at , said "we wouldn’t want to see someone put a crepe truck in front of Paris Creperie. But, a barbecue truck would be sensational. There’s a synergy that develops and makes it a destination."
The Coolidge Corner Creperie currently has a food truck under construction in New Jersey, Patterson added.
Ron Sarni, president of the Boston Area Food Truck Association, echoed Patterson's comments, saying that several trucks serving different courses could park in the same area without "cannibalizing" each other.
"What’s been working — and the premise of food trucks — it’s about jobs, it’s about revenue, it’s about community," Sarni added.
Sarni owns the Grilled Cheese Nation food trucks, and says that a lot happens in a food truck line--he's seen two marriage proposals and a divorce. He also noted that Boston food trucks are finding the dinner service less successful than lunch; useful to note, as Selectman Nancy Daly pointed out, that many Washington Square restaurants serve dinners, but fewer serve breakfasts and lunches.
No members of the public shared concerns about the program, but one selectman echoed concerns about damaging existing businesses with the program.
Selectman Ken Goldstein observed that, "there is no direct benefit to the town from this. There is the chance a truck will be garaged in Brookline. I'm not saying that it won’t be a benefit, just no financial benefits."
He called for the selectmen ensure that "at least we do no harm" with the proposal.
The Board will look over the proposal, then provide feedback and return for a vote at a later meeting.
"We will have to work this out in the 'Brookline Way.'" DeWitt added, "Whatever that is."