The Future of Food Trucks in Portland is Still Unclear

Portland, Maine has now seen its first peak summer season with a food truck pilot program come and go, and is hearing from businesses and the public about what worked, and what didn't

NBC10 Boston

In some ways, it started as a kind of food truck fiasco.  Months later, it continues to be a divisive topic.

Portland, Maine has now seen its first peak summer season with a food truck pilot program come and go.

After a proposed lottery system, a plan for a food truck park with permanent trash receptacles and electrical outlets and protests, 14 trucks at a time were able to use a lower parking lot on the city’s Eastern Promenade for no additional fee, with no permanent improvements for the trucks made to the area.

The lot was an alternative location to a road at the top of the promenade, which was a preferred option for business owners, who cited citing maximum foot traffic and other conveniences.

But some area residents were concerned about truck noise, parking and safety.

Ultimately, Portland’s interim city manager determined the lower parking lot as the best option for the trucks for the 2022 season.

“There are a lot of constituency groups we are responsible for,” said Jessica Grondin, the communications director for the City of Portland, explaining that officials are still collecting data from the pilot to determine a more permanent solution.

“We get e-mails on a weekly basis,” she noted.

Now, days after Labor Day, opinions on how the pilot worked in practice remain “mixed.”

“I guess it feels more like a community spot,” said Heidi, a woman from Pownal, Maine visiting the pilot park on Thursday.

“I think that it’s nice...the parking is really convenient as well,” she added.

Meanwhile, people like Dylan Gardner, who co-owns the Falafel Mafia truck called the pilot, “the worst option by far” and explained that the new location significantly dropped “foot traffic” with a material impact on business.

“Sometimes we’re only doing 30% of what we were doing before,” said Gardner, adding that the moment the trucks moved the amount of money coming in “just cut right off.”

“We’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars not just for us, but our employees,” he added.

Gardner also said he planned to show this loss to city officials at a later date.

Back at City Hall, Grondin said, city officials would like all stakeholders to continue to weigh in with feedback that could inform next year’s plan for the food trucks.

She added that, no matter what that proposal looks like, the city would like to prepare it with much more notice for food truck owners ahead of the 2023 summer season than was given in 2022.

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