Regulations that essentially make it impossible to have a food truck in Vineyard Haven, unless you park it in front of an existing restaurant, got some significant pushback Tuesday.
During a public hearing before the Tisbury board of selectmen, several people questioned the proposed regulations, including Benjamin Hall Jr., whose family owns a building that’s been looked at as a restaurant at 35 Main St. Hall called the policy unconstitutional.
“You’re allowing restaurants that are pre-existing to have the benefit of improving their food service permits to incorporate a truck on their property, essentially — even though they may or may not own that truck — so those restaurant properties are given an advantage over all other property owners,” Hall said. “So all properties within the area are not being equally protected or policed.”
There was considerable discussion about the confusion caused by some of the language dealing with ownership of property, and tying a food truck to someone already holding a common victualer’s license. Planning board member Cheryl Doble asked, for example, if a restaurant owner could have a food truck on another lot somewhere, so long as that owner had a common victualer’s license.
Two selectmen who strongly back the need for regulations — Jeff Kristal and Jim Rogers — said that’s not the intent. Similar to the setup at Art Cliff Diner, they said, the food truck would be on the same property and complement the restaurant’s offerings.
Rogers conceded some of the language, particularly surrounding who is eligible and who isn’t, could use tweaking.
As for Hall’s claim of constitutionality, Rogers said he doubted that there was any merit to it because the regulations were adapted from some already in existence in other towns, and have been reviewed by the town’s attorney.
Both selectmen danced around their disdain for food trucks. Though Rogers had described them as “honky-tonk” at a previous meeting, planning board member Elaine Miller urged board members to be more straightforward about the reason for the regulations, and stop being so nebulous. “Say what you want to say. What you really want to say is you want to protect the brick and mortar restaurants’ owners,” she said. “So come out and say it, and be clear about it and don’t waltz around it, because it’s going to create confusion.”
Another planning board member, Ben Robinson, questioned a provision that essentially gives restaurants within 200 feet of a proposed food truck veto power. “If you were to draw a 200-foot radius around the properties in town that have food establishments, you’re essentially putting a lot of burden on the properties in the business zones to seek approval and support from existing businesses,” he said. “I find that concerning.”
Kristal said there shouldn’t be a need for written permission from another restaurant owner, but that their voices should be heard in the public hearing process for a food truck.
“Nobody would want a food truck pulling up in front of your restaurant and taking business from you that way,” Kristal said.
The public hearing remained open, and the board continued it to June 30 at 4:30 pm. That gives the town time to work in some of the suggestions made at the public hearing, Kristal said.
In other business, selectmen once again postponed issuing a common victualer’s license for Vineyard Grocer because town inspectors have not yet been called back to review issues they had with the alarm system.
Selectmen did issue a common victualer’s transfer from Not Your Sugar Mama’s to Frankie’s Market, and a beer and wine license transfer from Bobby B’s Seafood and Pizza to All Things Delicious at 22 Main St. Elio Silva recently purchased the longtime Vineyard Haven business.