City’s Food Truck Task Force Deliberates Location at First Meeting; Next Meeting in Two Weeks

Food Cart Vendor Ron Gan

Dick Grotton, Maine Restaurant Association By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,097)

Major cities all over the country permit food trucks to operate within city limits; cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and closer to home, Brunswick and Cape Elizabeth, ME. Not so here in Portland, however. Currently, Portland City ordinances do not permit food trucks in the City.

But that could change in the near future. Prompted by phone calls to city hall, the advocacy work of food cart owner Ron Gan, and most importantly, support from Creative Portland dating back to last October, a task force was formed to recommend policy options or ordinance changes that would permit food trucks in Portland – or not permit them – recommendations that will be forwarded to the City Council from one of its Committees by April. Not one of the task force members rejected the idea – carte blanche – of bringing food trucks to Portland, although there were caveats attached to the unanimous approval. City Councilor Jill Duson facilitated the meeting.

Proximity to restaurants and other businesses in the city was the focus of the discussion. Other topics arose such as whether or not to limit the number of licenses available the first year or to let the market control that; charging different rates for preferential locations; and assuring established restaurants their business will not be hurt by competition from food trucks. Experienced food cart operator Ron Gan tried to assure Dick A. Grotton, President & CEO of Maine Restaurant Association and Steve DiMillo, DiMillo’s on the Water, that they won’t be overun by food trucks. “There is not enough business for all of them out there. It’s too expensive. I understand the concern of the ‘bricks & mortar’ people, but people prefer them. Don’t get too worried that several food trucks will hurt restaurants,” he cautioned them.

Of concern to Andy Graham, formerly a small business owner, and chair of Creative Portland, was the lack of “foodies” on the task force. It was “oddly drawn as to whom the stakeholders are – all people with a particular financial interest – rather than a broader policy aspect that affects the community,” he said following the almost 2 hour meeting.

The next meeting of the task force will be in two weeks and is open to the public. The recommendation of this task force will be forwarded to the Public Safety and Health and Human Services Committee. In turn, it will forward its recommendation on to the City Council for its action.

“It’ll be a tight fit, but we can do it,” said Councilor Duson about the short turnaround time.

For more background information on the task force, please visit Post # 1,085, dated 2/19/12 herein.