Mmm, mmm, maybe: Lewiston considers greenlighting food trucks

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LEWISTON — The city may finally become food truck friendlier.

Almost two years in the works, the City Council will hear proposed ordinance changes in a June 6 workshop that would welcome food trucks to the streets of Lewiston with some notable exceptions: Not on Lisbon Street, not in Kennedy Park and not within 100 feet of a restaruant’s main entrance.

The “magic question” will be finding spots for trucks to park and be profitable. But even with those restrictions, the effort has been worth it, said Randy Smith, the owner of Pinky D’s all-poutine food truck out of Lisbon Falls.

Last Saturday at a sold-out food truck festival in Portland, Smith had his single-largest day ever — 880 meals in four hours. The interest is there, the customers are there and it could translate to big business for Lewiston, he said.

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“In Portland, I think last year seven food trucks opened brick and mortar restaurants,” Smith said. “That to me is the starting grounds for restaurateurs and people who want to get into the restaurant business. That’s where you start to build a customer base and build relationships. If it doesn’t work, you’re not out a quarter-million dollars.”

Misty Parker, the city’s economic development specialist who worked with Smith on the proposal, said the city wants to encourage and support entrepreneurship while being respectful of what’s already here.

“Our goal was to really try to make some of these changes to encourage these businesses to be here in Lewiston, just try something small first,” she said.

Food trucks have been allowed on private property and were permitted here for special events, but unlike many Maine cities and towns, they couldn’t park and serve from the street in Lewiston.

Under the proposed changes to the Special Food Handlers and Roving Diners ordinance: 

• Food trucks could operate between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on city property (in streets and near parks) and between 6 a.m. and 1 a.m. on private property, with permission of the property owner.

• Food trucks wouldn’t be allowed in cemeteries, parking garages, city parking lots, on Lisbon Street or on park grounds and school grounds unless part of a permitted or authorized event.

Lisbon Street is excluded out of concerns over parking, Parker said. Kennedy Park is also an exception — food trucks wouldn’t be allowed in even in an event situation.

• Trucks have to park in established parking spots, can stay up to four hours in a 24-hour period, can take up only one space and must haul away their trash.

Operators aren’t allowed to do food prep or cooking inside the trucks and, as is the rule in other cities, have to be linked to a commercial space or commissary for that work. That space doesn’t have to be in Lewiston-Auburn but could be.

Smith, who teaches a regular food truck class through adult education and is building a food truck for students at The Green Ladle in Lewiston, said trucks are usually busiest between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. He knows of six to eight food trucks that might frequent Lewiston if the new ordinance passed.

It could be up for a vote in front of the City Council as soon as mid-July.

“We want to be proactive about it,” Parker said. “We realize this is a growing industry. There is huge potential for people to test the market here to see that their restaurant could work up here, so by making these changes, we’re really hoping to invite more people in.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

Roving Diner Ordinance Updated for Food Trucks by sunjournal on Scribd

Randall Smith shows one of the items on his Pinky D’s food truck menu, “Chicken Bacon & Ranch,” which is piled on Tater Tots.

Randy Smith of Pinky D’s

Pinky D’s food truck

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