Food trucks, carts required to fork over more cash in New Haven

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NEW HAVEN --  The mobile food vending business in New Haven is wildly popular. But the meals on wheels will soon see their annual licensing fees at least double.

"$1,000 for the carts and $2,500 for the trucks," said Steve Fontana, the city’s deputy economic development director.

Those numbers are based on what a parking space or permit for sidewalk obstruction for a year would cost.

With the cost of doing business increasing, should customers expect to pay more? It depends on who you speak with.

"We can't do that," said Raja Singh, the owner of the Curry in a Hurry food cart, who parks at Yale's Ingalls Rink each day. "There's a lot of competition here. A lot of people here. We can't do this (raise prices)."

One reason for new regulations: brick and mortar businesses complaining about trucks and carts being too close to their businesses and the their lack of overhead.

"There's a lot of undercover things when dealing with a food truck that a lot of restaurants don't understand either because we still need an area to prep, which we pay for and I mean just the maintenance on the trucks themselves," said Phil D'Antonio, who operates the A Slice of New Haven food truck, which will be forced to move from Broadway when the new mandates take effect July 1.

But the city said it's not just a money grab.

"We're going to have consistent enforcement that we're going to pay for, additional cleanings, promotional events," said Fontana.

Along I-95, at Long Wharf, the food trucks are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. The city has installed new sidewalks and they are in the process of putting in lighting, benches, portable restrooms and a trash compactor. So, there is an additional fee that these truck operators have to serve up.

"Everybody's going to have their own power box," said Maritza Cartagena, owner of the Tacos Mexicanos Santa Apolonia truck, which has served customers on the New Haven waterfront for 18 years.

These trucks will now pay an annual $500 fee for the electricity. But, that will eliminate noise and pollution from generators.

"We pay $15 a day for the gas for the generators now," said Cartagena.

And, serving food from her truck seven days a week, she said the fuel costs her over 10 times more than the city's electricity fee will.

Long Wharf will even become more busy. The city plans to approve up to an additional 20 trucks to operate there. There are presently 13 to 14.

The new regulations in three of the the city's four newly designated special vending zones (Long Wharf, Cedar St., Downtown) go into effect July 1.

Those operating in the parking lot of Yale University's Ingalls Rink, at the corner of Sachem and Prospect, have until August 15 to move from the lot to adjacent sidewalks.