As the Somerville Board of Aldermen work to , residents and food truck operators are weighing in on what they'd like to see in Somerville.
Patch readers want food trucks
Somerville Patch ran a . As of Wednesday afternoon, about 73 percent of respondents said they want food trucks. About 20 percent said, "Maybe. It depends on where they are and what they're doing," and 6 percent said, "No. They're not right for a place like Somerville."
If residents are eagar to have food trucks, food trucks are also eager to come to Somerville, but only at certain times.
Targeting Somerville's nightlife
"What we want to do is to vend from eleven to two [at night] on nice summer evenings in Union and Davis Square for a community that doesn't have a lot of [late-night] options outside Burger King," said Patrick Gilmartin, a Somerville resident who owns Staff Meal, a food truck that sells things like sandwiches and tacos.
Gilmartin attended a Tuesday night meeting of the Board of Aldermen's legislative matters committee, which is currently drafting the proposed ordinance.
The food truck market in Somerville, he and other food truck operators said, is in areas with lots of foot traffic at night. Basically, the market is in Davis and Union squares to capture the nightlife crowd.
"We think it brings an added vibrant way to serve our food in the community and add to an already hip restaurant scene in Somerville," Gilmartin said.
It's unlikely Somerville would become a hotbed of daytime food-truck culture, since "most of the existing food trucks already serve lunch five days a week in Boston," he said.
Still drafting the ordinance
The legislative matters committee is currently drafting the ordinance, and committee chair Rebekah Gewritz, aldermen for Somerville's Ward 6, which includes Davis Square, said she hopes to wrap up the process within the month.
The city currently has no easy way of regulating food trucks, she said, which is why the ordinance is necessary.
The ordinance, as it's currently drafted, would require food truck operators to apply to the Board of Aldermen for a license. The Board's licenses and permits committee would review applications and decide if given food trucks make sense for the community. Applicants would describe specifically where and when they want to operate, and the committee would make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Restrictions on where to operate
At Tuesday's committee meeting, some aldermen expressed a desire to keep food trucks out of certain parts of the city.
Alderman At-Large John Connolly said he doesn't want food trucks near and , which are historic locations. He also talked about protecting existing restaurants from competition. "A lot of people have long-term leases," he said.
On Tuesday, Gewirtz spoke of protecting businesses in Davis Square. During a phone conversation Wednesday, however, she said she wasn't entirely opposed to food trucks in Davis. "It absolutely depends on the application," she said. "If it's something people want and it's done right, I would be open."
"That's the beauty of the ordinance," she said, adding that it "involves a more informed decision and the input of the community."
Competition with bricks-and-mortar restaurants
Aldermen expresed a desire to protect bricks-and-mortar restaurants in Somerville. Alderman At-Large Bruce Desmond said, "There's always a chance that you're encroaching on someone's livelihood" and he wants to be careful about that.
Food truck operators said the two businesses usually compliment each other.
"More often than not, in my experience, it's a case of a rising tide lifting all ships," said Mike Fuller of Kitchen Inc., based in Union Square, a shared kitchen facility for small and developing food businesses.
"In the last three years there's a lot of movement toward opening up what was formerly restrictive," he said.
Gilmartin said food trucks do not "take away, but add to the existing business community."
"If folks saw this as a business incubator, that's what we're really talking about," said Mimi Graney, executive director of , which promotes growth of the Union Square business district and neighborhood. She pointed out that a number of bricks-and-mortar businesses started as food trucks.