Boston could stand more delicious street food - and people selling it - councilors said today, calling for a dramatic simplification in the process for people to begin selling food from simple, inexpensive, hand-pushed carts.
The City Council agreed to start studying ways to cut the red tape they say now makes it too expensive and cumbersome for people who "lack capital and political connections" to "cook up simple delicious food to sell outside," City Councilor Brian Worrell (Dorchester, Mattapan) said.
Under a proposal by Worrell and Councilors Julia Mejia (at large) and Gabriela Coletta (East Boston, Charlestown, North End), the city would set up designated push-cart zones - similar to the ways food trucks have designated zones to park - for use by people with carts to sell their food - and a simplified application process for getting a permit.
Because such carts are far less expensive than brick-and-mortar restaurants and even food trucks, they would become "another tool for economic mobility in Boston," especially among immigrant communities, Coletta said. Already, she said, budding entrepreneurs are tempting the fates by offering arepas, tamales and fruit from baby strollers, shopping carts and the backs of pickup trucks outside the Maverick and Airport T stops.
Coletta said designating specific zones for the pushcarts would keep them from becoming a threat to restaurants or food trucks - similar to the way the city limited food trucks to specific parking area when it moved to expand their numbers.
However, she said pushcarts might not even be a threat to restaurants. She said that when pushcarts were pushed out of one particular part of Brooklyn, restaurants actually saw their business decline because of the loss of food traffic.
Mejia said people who want to start serving under an umbrella today have to resort to "breaking the DaVinci Code, basically." Coletta said that, to start, a would be push-cartpreneur has to get separate permits from the health, fire and transportation departments - all in different buildings - and that's even before they then go for a separate state license. "It's a tangled web of bureaucracy," she said.