No one minds fair competition.
Unfair competition — well, that’s different.
In February, Niki Boulas — owner of Elvira’s Deli near Old Mill Beach — emailed the first selectman’s office.
She said that after Hurricane Sandy, there’s been lots of construction in the area. Recently, she noticed a big impact from food trucks. She wondered what could be done.
Pat Scully replied:
All food trucks are required to have a health permit. Food trucks that park on town-owned property are also required to obtain a town vendor’s permit.
However food trucks on private property are not required to obtain a town permit (just a health permit). There are no local zoning laws regulating food trucks. Therefore if the food trucks you mention are located on private property construction sites, the town does not have any jurisdiction to ban them from operation.
The food permit costs $10. There is an additional fee of $25 for each vehicle used.
Yet the town’s “Vendor’s Permit/Door-to-Door Solicitors” regulations also say:
Vendors are not allowed to compete directly with established retail operations anywhere in the Town of Westport. For example, ice cream vendors may not operate in the main business areas of Westport or in close proximity to outlying stores which sell ice cream.
While “directly” and “close proximity” are not great legal terms, the food trucks are clearly on town — not private — property. Niki took this photo yesterday, in “close proximity” on Hillspoint Road:
On Friday, Elvira’s placed a petition on their counter. It reads:
As many of you are aware, there have been many food trucks coming into our area from out of town. These trucks have had a significant negative impact on our business.
Their fees to the town are minimal. There is no way for Elvira’s, as a small mom and pop business, to compete with their prices as our overhead costs are greater, and we are a Westport taxpayer.
For over a month now we have been dealing with town officials and our First Selectman, and we have gotten nowhere. As a local business serving the community for the last 16 years, we find this situation to be unfair. Now we need your help by signing our petition to ban or restrict them from our Compo Beach area. Thank you!
As of yesterday afternoon — despite 98% of Westport being away for school vacation — nearly 200 customers had signed. The names included some heavy hitters in town.
Elvira’s has many fans. It’s been an anchor of the Old Mill community — during Hurricane Sandy, sure, but before as well.
And long before the invasion of the (perhaps illegal) food trucks.