Food truck regs vary in Meriden, Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire

After about a month operating next to a Wallingford brewery, a local food truck learned it had to change locations due to zoning regulations.

Rules vary by municipality and local officials say they may need to review regulations because of the increased popularity of food trucks, particularly at breweries.

Lobster Tails food truck is serving customers at a new location in Wallingford, 995 N. Colony Rd., after operating next to Center Street Brewing Company at 24 Wallace Ave. Lobster Tails Owner Paul Brualt said the business was welcomed by the brewery owners about a month ago. 

“The brewery was great,” Brualt said. “They didn’t want to have a whole bunch of food trucks…They didn’t want a different guy from a hundred miles away. They wanted it to be a Wallingford business.”

Town Planner Kacie Hand said Brualt didn’t notify the town he would be operating next to the brewery and didn’t have all of the necessary permits. Hand said food trucks are prohibited in the town center, except for special events.

In a statement on social media, Center Street Brewing said that the owners of Lobster Tails are great people who work hard and make delicious food.

“We would love to host food trucks but we have to respect the ordinances and rules put in place by the town of Wallingford. At this point it is a matter between the property owner and the town officials,” the statement said.

Town by town

Regulations on food trucks vary greatly by municipality. In Meriden, food trucks are restricted to public roads and locations such as Hubbard Park and aren’t allowed on private property. It’s the opposite in Cheshire, which doesn’t allow food trucks in public places but does allow them on private property if they’re serving employees of a single business.

Southington allows food trucks to operate with approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Chairman Joseph LaPorte said the requests aren’t frequent.

Josh Norris, an owner of Witchdoctor Brewing Co. on Center Street in Southington, said he occasionally has food trucks parked outside the brewery for his customers. He had to get a special exception from the town to have them at the former factory site.

Norris was glad that Southington allows food trucks.

“That was important to us,” he said.

Food trucks are often part of the small brewery experience.

Bill Voelker, Cheshire’s Town Planner, said there are no plans to amend the town’s food truck regulations but that the growing microbrewery industry could prompt changes. Restaurant owners would need a chance to weigh in on any proposed changes.

“If we’re going to get interest by the microbreweries, and we’re starting, it’s something we’ll have to talk about,” he said.

Meriden Planning Director Renata Bertotti said there’s a review of city regulations planned for next year that could include food truck rules.

Disservice to residents?

Wallingford’s town center zone was approved last year with the intention of promoting economic growth and attracting developers. Hand believes residents and business owners should carefully consider the ramifications of allowing food trucks in the downtown area. There are more than a half dozen restaurants just a short walk from where Lobster Tails was parked. 

“We didn’t want to detract from some of the existing business in that area that have invested in a permanent location,” Hand said.

Hand said Brualt has all the permits needed to operate the truck in his new location on Route 5, across from a plaza that includes a movie theater. Brualt said that in order to continue operating his business, he is required to move the food truck away from the location for four hours in a 24 hour time period. Brualt said he will take the truck to different locations on select days and plans to partner with breweries in Hamden and Middletown. He will update his customers via Facebook.

“It’s a lot easier to deal with a lot of the other towns,” Brualt said. “So I’m hoping that Wallingford will kind of wake up a little bit and see that they’re doing a disservice to their residents.”
Twitter: @JenieceRoman

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