Needham, MA: Food Truck Regulations May Signal End of 10-year Needham Hot Dog Tradition

Erik Wegner, owner of Ron's Hot Dogs, has operated his food truck outside of the Mobile gas station on Great Plain Avenue for 10 years.

By Wei-Huan Chen  |  Wicked Local

Erik Wegner, owner of Ron's Hot Dogs, has operated his food truck outside of the Mobile gas station on Great Plain Avenue for 10 years.
Erik Wegner, owner of Ron’s Hot Dogs, has operated his food truck outside of the Mobile gas station on Great Plain Avenue for 10 years.
Needham —

The future of Needham’s hot dog vendor who has served hot dogs at the Mobile Gas Station on Great Plain Avenue for more than a decade, is up in the air in light of recently approved regulations limiting food trucks to the northern end of town.

Erik Wegner, who owns Dog Gone Ron’s hot dog cart, said he plans to talk to officials later this month about how the regulations will apply to his business—if his trailer is considered a food truck and if he could be exempt from the regulations.

A likely scenario, he said, is that Dog Gone Ron’s, as it exists now, won’t be back next season.

The new regulations “will definitely hurt me. In general they [the Board of Selectmen] don’t want food trucks in Needham,” said Wegner.

Wegner said he sells most of his hot dogs on Saturdays. Under Needham’s food truck regulations, set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014, food trucks cannot serve during Saturdays and Sundays.

The regulations allow food trucks only in areas of town “underserved” by restaurants. So Wegner would need to relocate his cart to the area of Needham’s business center, north of the Route 128 bridge.

Reestablishing himself in a new location, said Wegner, would prove challenging.

Finally, the more than $1000 worth of annual fees for new required licenses will further hurt his business, he said. Those include a $1000 five-day food truck permit and a street occupancy permit, which Wegner does not currently have.

John Bulian said that the food truck regulations would apply to Wegner because of a change in Wegner’s relationship with the Mobile Gas Station.

In 2003, Wegner began selling hot dogs at the station, which was owned by his family at the time. However, the station was sold to a new owner, who has complained about the existence of Dog Gone Ron’s near the Mobile Gas Station.

“I’m not sure what I should do,” said Wegner.

Selectman Moe Handel said Dog Gone Ron’s location on Great Plain Avenue “was never a sanctioned use.”

“I think it’s too bad there wasn’t a way to keep him there. There was no way to stay consistent with the other food trucks,” said Handel.

Owner Erik Wegner has operated "Ron's Hot Dogs," at the Mobile gas station on Great Plain Avenue for 10 years.
Owner Erik Wegner has operated “Ron’s Hot Dogs,” at the Mobile gas station on Great Plain Avenue for 10 years.

The food truck regulations, said officials, are meant to protect existing brick-and-mortar restaurants from unfair competition by new food trucks.

“We needed to develop and pass regulations that would be fair and equitable to everybody,” said Bulian.

Resident Sam Bass Warner, who wrote a letter to the Needham Times about the issue on Oct. 31, said Dog Gone Ron’s is an attractive addition to Needham’s downtown. The business “deserves to be exempted from this ordinance. His wagon on Great Plain Avenue in front of the gas station lies at the far edge of any downtown businesses. His menu of hotdogs and soft drinks competes with no restaurant’s offerings,” wrote Warner.

He said he would be sad to see the hot dog vendor go.

“I go to the post office, it’s always a pleasure to see it,” said Warner. “We’re lucky to have it.”

http://www.wickedlocal.com/needham/news/x825431212/Food-truck-regulations-may-signal-end-of-10-year-Needham-hot-dog-tradition