Special to the Times-Free Press
Boston City Councilor Gabriela Coletta held a hearing on November 28 to codify regulations and enhance accessibility for non-motorized street food carts. The legislation would unlock an economic mobility tool and provide entrepreneurs the ability to build capital without burdensome upfront costs. The administration expressed general support and echoed the opportunity Councilor’s Coletta’s idea provides for small business owners. Those in attendance included co-sponsors Councilor-At-Large Julia Mejia and Councilor Brian Worrell of District 4, Council President Ed Flynn, Councilors At-Large Ruthzee Louijeune, and Erin Murphy.
During the hearing, the councilors discussed creating a passport application that would expedite the permitting and approval process with oversight of a committee with representatives from Public Works, Inspectional Services, Transportation, Small Business, and Fire.
Additionally, the committee would establish specialized vending zones in partnership with community members and merchants to ensure zones are mutually beneficial to all stakeholders. There was also discussion of ensuring necessary technical assistance for vendors as well as additional staff capacity within the city to prevent bureaucratic bottlenecks.
“Street vending is one of the oldest informal types of commerce, yet we do not see it flourishing in Boston which is a detriment to our local economy. This ordinance seeks to formalize the informal by streamlining the process and making it more accessible for individuals who do not have the economic means to afford a food truck or purpose a brick-and-mortar establishment,” said Councilor Coletta. “I look forward to working with the administration to establish a streamlined process for business creation and guidelines for street vending zones.”
Members of the administration present included:
• Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Chief of Streets
• Alesha Porcena, Director of Small Business
• Corean Reynolds, Director of Nightlife Economy
• Daniel Pendergast, Assistant Commissioner of the Health Division
• Chris English, Chief of Staff, Inspectional Services Department
• Kristen McCosh, Commissioner, Boston Disabilities Commission
• Hans Bastien, Mobile Enterprises Manager
“Our office is excited to expand innovative approaches that strengthen economic prosperity. This proposal builds upon a regulation implemented in 2021, filed by our office, creating a licensing process for residential kitchens. We seek to broaden the ways for conducting business in Boston, empowering and supporting more individuals to launch their own enterprises. Street vending is already a presence in the City of Boston, and we look forward to formally recognizing and regulating it within the City code while providing clear and transparent guidelines,” said Councilor Mejia.
“I look forward to working on this ordinance that will streamline the food cart licensing process. As a small business owner, I know red tape can be a major barrier, especially for those who might speak languages other than English. Along with Councilor Coletta, I want to ensure the process for food cart entrepreneurs is simple, fair and accessible as we continue to remove roadblocks for businesses throughout the city. Creating specific zones and times for operation will be vital to a successful policy,” said Councilor Worrell.
“We are hard working people and we want the opportunity to be able to move forward with our small businesses. Due to family and health problems with my husband, I can no longer continue my restaurant job because I have to care for him. But I have been able to work in street vending which has allowed me economic opportunities to take care of my household expenses,” said Martha Alicia Torres Pleitez, Salvadoran immigrant, East Boston resident and street vendor.
The ordinance would amend the City of Boston Municipal Code, Chapter 17, Section 17-22, Permitting and Regulation of Non-Motorized Street Food Carts, and apply to non-motorized street food cart operations engaged in the business of cooking, preparing, and distributing food or beverage. The regulations establish precise, streamlined application and approval processes and time limits for approvals to establish predictability in business planning and outline clear guidelines for operations, permit fees, and enforcement. The ordinance also proposes reducing the fees and costs associated with establishing a non-motorized food cart.
Councilor Coletta, is looking forward to continuing the conversation in a January working session.