November 29, 2023

Food City

The Best Darn Food City Uou Can Get

Food trucks granted spaces after losing lottery

Five food truck businesses lost a lottery drawing on Wednesday for a spot at Eastern Prom this summer. Now, they all have spots after protesting.

PORTLAND, Maine — All 15 food trucks that applied for licenses to operate along Portland’s Eastern Promenade will be able to park there starting June 15.

Portland’s Interim City Manager Danielle West announced in a news release Thursday afternoon that all 14 trucks (15 businesses) that applied for a spot at the Eastern Promenade park this summer will receive one for the city’s pilot program.

Initially, 10 of the 14 applications received licenses to park in the Cutter Street parking lot in a lottery system. The food truck lottery was held Wednesday morning, resulting in Mr. Tuna, Maine Maple Creemee Co., Eighty 8 Donuts, Cheese the Day, and Ironclad Eats all getting cut. Ironclad Eats co-applied to share a spot with Cheese the Day using one truck.

The interim city manager announced the decision Thursday afternoon, after a protest Thursday morning at City Hall. Jordan Rubin, the owner of Mr. Tuna, was one of the five food truck businesses that did not earn a spot during the initial lottery. He and several other food truck owners and staff participated in the protest demanding a solution, preferring to keep their spot on the street along the top of the Eastern Prom.

Part of the reason for the launch of the pilot program came from people who live along the Prom complaining of trash, parking issues, blocked ocean views, and noise from the food trucks’ generators.

“Having the vendors not willing to block their generators, that is part of the problem,” one counter-protester said who claimed to live in the Eastern Prom area.

“They do not own the park. They do not own the ocean,” Rubin said before West’s announcement. “I think they have to accept that and if they don’t like it they can live in the suburbs.”

Rubin and Eighty 8 Donut Cafe partner Garret Champlin made it clear that the “upper deck” of the Eastern Prom was the preferred location. They worry that the Cutter St. Lot will result in less foot traffic.

“I feel like we will do better business on the upper deck, absolutely,” Champlin said.

West made the following statement in the news release:

“I want to thank the food truck operators who were able to meet so quickly with me [Wednesday] following the lottery so we could explore a solution. I appreciated hearing their thoughts and feedback regarding our plans for the food truck pilot program on the Eastern Promenade this season. I realize how important it is for them to know in advance where they can locate and operate. 

“Given we are very close to the start of this pilot program, I wanted to make every effort to see if we could accommodate all of the food trucks that applied. After receiving the various truck dimensions from the operators, I’m happy to report that staff were able to reconfigure the space we have available in order to accommodate all 14 trucks.” 

“This will be an attempt to try to hit that balance and hit that sweet spot. We hope that it works this summer but we’re willing to take in all feedback and try to improve it for next summer,” West said in an interview Thursday. “Obviously, if this doesn’t work, it’s a pilot program, and we’ll go back to the drawing board.”

She encouraged other food truck operators to take advantage of the Amethyst Lot along the eastern edge of Commercial Street, which is near the Narrow Gauge Railroad and Ocean Gateway. City spokesperson Jessica Grondin said that area sees thousands of people in foot traffic walking the trail that leads to the base of the East End Beach, which is connected to the Prom and the Cutter Street Lot.

“It would help to activate the city and we would love to see that happen,” West said.

“It’s not the same, and we’re not interested in that,” Rubin said.

This season’s pilot program will not be charging the food truck businesses a license fee to utilize the public space this summer, according to the news release. 

It will run from June 15 to Nov. 15 at Eastern Prom.

More NEWS CENTER Maine stories

Click here to sign up for the daily NEWS CENTER Maine Break Time Newsletter. 

For the latest breaking news, weather, and traffic alerts, download the NEWS CENTER Maine mobile app.