PROVIDENCE, RI – The owners of the food trucks Mama Kim’s, Lotus Pepper and Buddha Belly said a sudden surge in police enforcement of parking laws has restricted their operations on Thayer Street and in the downtown area.
Food trucks were previously allowed to park and operate freely as long as they had proper licenses, did not violate any parking laws and relocated every two hours. But police are now limiting food trucks to one hour instead of two and barring them from parking in spots designated with white lines — even when they are parked in legal spaces during legal hours, said Thang Huynh, owner of Lotus Pepper.
“Police are kicking us out for old laws that they just all of a sudden started to enforce,” Huynh said. “To be honest, we feel like we are being bullied.”
The heightened police enforcement comes after a complaint by the Hope Street Merchants Association. Huynh speculated that restaurants have complained because food trucks were cutting into their revenues.
Though food trucks are not required to maintain a certain distance from restaurants, many food trucks park at least 100 feet away from restaurants out of courtesy, said Eric Weiner, founder and president of Food Trucks In, a Providence-based company that connects food trucks and customers in more than 885 cities across the country, according to its website.
Approximately 49 food trucks are licensed to operate in Rhode Island, and 15 food trucks have licenses to operate around campus, Weiner added.
The parking spots that are now off-limits to the trucks are located in places with the most foot traffic, such as downtown, Thayer Street and other areas on campus.
Paul Gervais, owner of Buddha Belly and a newcomer to Providence’s food truck scene, said police have been “hostile and intimidating.” While parked near Thayer in December, Gervais was approached by a police officer, asked to show his permits and forced to leave because the truck was parked on white lines, even though it was Sunday and there was no meter, he said. “The cop had a really bad attitude.”
“They threatened my staff and my company in December,” wrote Don Fecher, CEO of Mama Kim’s, in an email to The Herald.
Mama Kim’s has not broken any laws and has all necessary documents and licenses, Fecher wrote, adding, “After nearly four years of business, all of a sudden now we’re ‘breaking the law’? It’s laughable.”
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