CHATHAM – To say the least, Tony Guthrie was disappointed that food trucks were not allowed downtown during this summer's Mondays on Main music nights. He feels having them there would have attracted more people and injected some fun into the event; instead, a few people were able to block food trucks by claiming they'd take customers away from downtown restaurants.
“Not everybody wants to sit in a restaurant,” Guthrie said.
For the last Mondays on Main, coming up this Monday, Aug. 26, Guthrie, his Robert Paul Properties partner Sharon Mabile, Patti Lotane of the Cape Cod Five and attorney Karen Jennings Flynn are sponsoring the Mom and Pops Burgers food truck, which will be stationed in the parking lot of the Chatham Sign Shop just off Main Street. Mom and Pops will give away free samples of its food and donations will be collected for the Chatham Children's Fund and the Family Pantry of Cape Cod.
“We want to show people it's not the end of the world,” Guthrie said. “I think it will add to the fabric of the event and give a boost to a business that doesn't get the Main Street traffic and visibility.”
Because it is not selling food and will be located on private property, the truck doesn't require a permit from the board of selectmen. That's what held up the Chatham Merchants Association's plan to have Mom and Pops in town during the Mondays on Main events. In June several downtown business owners objected to the plan, and while selectmen suggested a four-date pilot program to judge the impact of the food truck, the merchants association withdrew the request at the direction of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. The merchants association, which sponsors Mondays on Main, is under the umbrella of the chamber.
Guthrie and friends will underwrite the cost of the food, which the restaurant is providing at cost. He hopes that having the food truck present during the event will not only help raise money for the two charities, but will also show doubters that there's enough business to go around.
“We're a small seasonal town,” he said, and Mom and Pops is a local, West Chatham-based business that is a member of the chamber and merchants association. “It's not like McDonald's wants to set up shop here.”
Guthrie and Mabile have a history of using promotions to collect money for local nonprofits. They are currently supporting a program to collect backpacks filled with school supplies for local students, and during the July 8 Mondays on Main set up a free ice cream sundae bar in front of their downtown office to collect toys and raise money for the Children's Fund. That prompted a complaint to the health department from a local ice cream shop owner. Health Agent Judy Giorgio said while she allowed that event without a permit, future fundraisers that involve temperature-sensitive food will require a permit, though fees will be waived. She added that the health department permits food trucks but does not regulate their location.
That's up to the board of selectmen. Currently, food trucks fall under the outdoor display and sale of goods bylaw which covers the downtown area. But if the food is given away and not sold, there is nothing for the board to regulate, particularly if the activity is taking place on private property.
Selectmen are scheduled to begin discussing mobile food vendor policies at their Sept. 12 meeting, according to chair Shareen Davis. She had no comment about the food truck's appearance at next week's Mondays on Main.
The chamber board postponed a food truck discussion until after Columbus Day, according to Executive Director Mary Cavanaugh, but the topic could come up at an upcoming board meeting, she said in an email Monday. She added that she did not know the details of the food truck at Monday's music stroll, but was disappointed a pilot program was not in place this summer to help shape food truck regulations.
Having the food truck at the last Mondays on Main is “kind of a celebration” of the weekly summertime music stroll, Guthrie said, and a chance to raise money for the two nonprofits as they head into their busy fall and winter seasons.
“As we slip into the shoulder and off seasons, that's when the needs are,” Guthrie noted.
The Chatham Sign Shop, at 40 Kent Place, behind 499 and 505 Main St., is donating use of its parking spots for the food truck, which will be there from 6 to 8 p.m.
“Everybody's welcome,” Guthrie said.