Affected Small Businesses Conflicted About Occupy Boston’s Role in Food Fest Cancellation

By Vanessa Formato |

Occupy Boston has been in the news a lot lately, but one recent story has some Boston residents riled up and crying “hypocrisy.”

Due to the group’s presence in Dewey Square, the Greenway Mobile Food Fest, a free event featuring Boston’s food trucks, local bands, and a food drive for the city’s homeless, has been cancelled. Representatives of the Greenway Conservancy said on their website that bringing festival-goers into the square “would simply [make it] too crowded to be considered safe for the public” and that moving the festival was not a feasible option because Dewey Square is the only place in the city large enough to accommodate the event. They are working to reschedule for early 2012.

Comments on the articles about the cancellation already circulating make it clear that people are angry at Occupy Boston. After all, this isn’t just any event — it’s one that represents almost exactly what the Occupy movement supports: small business owners and victims of the 1%. But Occupy Boston is willing to take some steps to make it right. Several local events have already been cancelled due to the occupation, but this one hit the group particularly hard given the food drive component, said Philip Anderson, an Occupy Boston media volunteer.

“I know that on a few news agencies in the last couple of days they’ve brought up that there’s a donation drive [at the Greenway Mobile Food Fest], and some people were concerned that by moving that, we may have been eliminating the donations that were going to come in,” said Anderson, 24. “The minute we heard that, we got in touch with our food people, and we’re going to be holding our own food drive just so that any donations that would have been made are not lost.”

It’s an excellent step forward for the group and a gesture worthy of their cause. As of posting time, the date for the new food drive hadn’t been set, but updates can be found on Occupy Boston’s website, Facebook, or Twitter. However, it doesn’t address the toll the festival’s postponement will take on the 12 small businesses slated to participate.

“As far as the Occupy Boston protest, we agree with many of the things that they are standing up for, but it’s unfortunate that it has resulted in a loss of business for us on potentially a busy fall weekend,” said Thomas Smith, co-owner of BBQ Smith. Like many of the food trucks on the roster, BBQ Smith is a relatively new business, having opened just this past June. “It would have been great exposure to a large group of people who don’t normally pass by our truck during the week.”

Boston Speed Dog’s website prominently features an advertisement for the Greenway Mobile Food Fest, now emblazoned with the words “Event Has Been Cancelled: Because of Occupy Boston.”

“We’re disappointed that the event was cancelled,” said Patrick Lynch of Bon Me. “Given what [Occupy Boston is] doing, the truck festival probably wasn’t something that they’re thinking about. I think the protestors are there for a very different reason, and I don’t think that they had any reaction to it one way or another. It was just kind of wrong place, wrong time.”

Sara Ross, owner of Kickass Cupcakes, agreed with Lynch that the situation isn’t a matter of the cancellation being Occupy Boston’s fault, but more a situation of unfortunate timing. Of course, that doesn’t mean things couldn’t have been handled better, she said.

“In a perfect world, it would have been great for the occupiers to acknowledge the situation and agree to bow out for a day,” Ross said. “It seems to me like this would be part of the message they are trying to get out there, isn’t it? — Making positive things happen at the grass roots level that benefit all, supporting small business, [and] promoting peace, love and cupcake happiness for all!”

Anderson said that he thinks representatives from Occupy Boston and the Greenway Mobile Food Fest had been in contact prior to the cancellation, but he didn’t know why a compromise was possible and, if so, why one wasn’t reached.

“I think what a lot people don’t realize about cancellation/postponement is the logistics,” she said. “The festival needed to utilize Dewey Square as the site for a whole caravan of food trucks. Dewey Square is paved, unlike most areas of the Greenway, which are freshly landscaped and planted with new flora and fauna that would not be suitable to park trucks on or, for that matter, be overtaken by tents and masses of people camping out.

You can show your support by visiting your local food trucks this weekend and make a donation — no matter how small — to the Greater Boston Food Bank.

About Vanessa — Vanessa Formato is a 22-year-old Clark University graduate, freelance journalist, vegan cupcake enthusiast and video game aficionado. She blogs about body image and tweets about puppies. So awesome, even John Stamos is impressed.