By Edie Kennedy | WCAI
Until fairly recently, “food trucks” mostly referred to local ice cream trucks, or the long, silver-sided canteen trucks that sell cold sandwiches and coffee. But in the last decade, thousands of food trucks have been popping up across the country, selling everything from steamed dumplings to macaroni, and more.
Towns like Wellfleet and Truro have licensed a few local trucks in recent years. But if you mention food trucks in Provincetown, business owners put up their hands.
Sitting at a red booth inside his Provincetown restaurant, George Kraniotakis listened to the sound of pizzas going into a large, metal oven. Kraniotakis opened George’s Pizza more than 40 years ago, and he said the rent is much more expensive for restaurants today than when he first moved here from Greece.
“In the beginning I come here,” he said, “you could buy property for $200,000, $300,000. Now it’s, maybe, two – three million dollars. It’s a big difference.”
Kraniotakis was fortunate enough to buy the building for his restaurant several years ago. But, he said rents in town for a restaurant like his, with only a couple dozen seats, goes for more than $11,000 a month. In Provincetown, for pizza and sandwiches, he said that’s too expensive.
“That’s why Provincetown’s got high prices for food,” he said.
Food trucks have been a popular solution to growing rents in other parts of the country, but they’re banned in Provincetown. Kraniotakis said if officials decide to allow them, it could shut down many of the smaller restaurants in town.
“It’s gonna kill the small places — the hotdog and hamburger places,” he said.
Many smaller restaurants in Provincetown share this opinion on food trucks, said Town Planner Gloria McPherson. But, there are still many more here, she said, who would like to have the option.
“We’ve had more families with kids, young kids, coming and spending time in Provincetown,” she said, “and that’s a more appealing option to a family with smaller kids for a couple of reasons: for costs, and also because they don’t have to sit down in a restaurant, they can get their food and run around.”
This interest has reopened the debate in town regarding food trucks. McPherson said she’s looked into a number of different ordinances across the country for over a year to find a way that food trucks could be brought into town without disrupting local business. She said she’s found a couple.
“Some of the ideas we batted around with the planning board were: Well, could we do them just on certain days? Like maybe a food truck festival once a month?” she said.
McPherson isn’t the only one whose thought about a food truck festival or event here.
Lewis Brothers is a local ice cream store that opened here in 1999. Co-owner David Lewis said they built a food truck several years ago to expand their business, taking their homemade ice cream to Truro and other areas of the Cape, where it’s licensed to operate. As a restaurant owner, he said he understands why many other restaurants in town don’t want food trucks. But he thinks it could work here.
“What I’d like to see,” Lewis said, “and what I’ve talked about with some people in town is like a food truck court, or a food truck festival, out at the end of MacMillan Wharf.”
Instead of dozens trucks lined up down the street, like you would have in a big city, Lewis said perhaps something fun, like a food truck event, could be great for the community.
“You charge an admission, you have music, and it’s an event,” he said. “The byproduct of that is there are more people coming to town, and that will filter down to more people shopping. I see that as a win-win.”
But first, Provincetown must decide if the town is ready for food trucks at all.