By Nadine Cafaro
In late 2022, the Town of Montgomery introduced a possible local law to help regulate the development of food trucks in the area. After months of debate, research and hearings, the board decided to take the law off the table altogether.
The local law aimed to set regulations in order to deal with the ongoing rise and popularity of food trucks. According to the drafted local law from the town’s website, they intended to create stricter definitions in order to be fair to established restaurants: “These regulations aim to create a balance between allowing these mobile businesses within the Town and protecting those existing brick and mortar food businesses throughout the Town.” The law also stated that mobile food vehicle parks, “a parcel of land where two or more Mobile Food Vehicles congregate to offer food and beverages for sale to the general public,” would only be allowed within 1,000 feet from a state highway interchange.
The decision came after a public hearing last Tuesday. Although the law was intended to support established brick and mortar businesses, some local restaurant owners felt it would do the opposite. Harry Toromanides, who, with his brother, operates The Main Line Diner and Johnny’s Pizzeria, mentioned the dedication and investments he has put in to these establishments.
“It was a significant investment in time and money, but it’s what business owners do who put roots down in the community. The current law before you not only risks that investment, but also the investment of other business owners you will see and hear from,” said Toromanides.
He also noted many differences between operating a restaurant and a food truck, bringing up inspections, tax payments, site plans, water and sewer, etc.
“These food trucks also operate with a finite amount of water and little or no access to bathroom for customers or employees [and] are unlimited in their outdoor seating by all accounts. Our seating capacity is directly linked to our bathrooms and water and sewage capacity,” Toromanides mentioned.
Strada Grill Owner Philip Vurchio also spoke to the board about being against the local law. “When I heard about this it really struck home because to me it worries me about my business, my family and my fellow restaurant owners that were servicing me and my family for the past few years,” said Vurchio.
He further acknowledges why a food truck would come to Montgomery for an event like an air show, for example, but states that it’s what his business relies on. “I’ve been a resident here for 10 years and I love the Montgomery area. [The] local events happening create all kinds of fun stuff that happens here, but a lot of local businesses rely on the traffic that it does drive in, and that’s how we make it through.”
Town Supervisor Ron Feller also read a letter from Alpim Bengasi, the co-owner of Carmela’s Restaurant, which stated “This will be devastating to us small businesses in the area that have been serving the community.”
This is just a few of many local restaurant owners who had contributed to the hearing.
When it came time to adopt the new local law, Councilwoman Sheryl A. Melick stated, “I would like to make a motion that we do not adopt this local law and stand behind our local restaurants.”
Attorney for the Town William Frank then gave Feller the proper motion to make in order to not go further with the law.
“You’re making a motion to table this resolution and not proceed with any adoption of this law,” said Frank.
The motion was passed unanimously and many board members thanked the restaurant owners for standing up for their businesses.
“You made your point tonight,” said Feller. “Everybody on this board, I think, is [with] the mindset that you’re the backbone of our community.”