Nov 16, 2023 - Food and Drink

Boston may make it easier to start a food cart

Illustration of a traffic light with place setting shaped lights.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

It would be easier for Bostonians to pick up a quick coffee, lunch or other delicacy from vendors along city sidewalks under a City Hall proposal to loosen regulations on food carts.

Why it matters: Non-motorized carts cost a lot less to operate compared to brick-and-mortar businesses and traditional food trucks.

  • Motorized food trucks may be easier to license in Boston, but they can cost well over $100,000 and aren't in the price range of many independent food sellers.
  • The lower barrier for entry for carts means more vendors can start small businesses on the sidewalk while saving up for a larger food truck or traditional restaurant.

What's happening: The City Council will hear a proposal from Councilor Gabriela Coletta that would create zones for food carts to operate and a new permit specifically for vendors selling from non-motorized carts.

  • Food carts can operate in Boston now, but the process can be daunting. They need to be approved by health, safety, public works and economic regulators before going into business.
  • The zones would govern where the carts can operate, similar to how food trucks are regulated now.

What they're saying: "Boston could mirror some of our different populations and ethnic groups," Coletta told Axios.

  • She says it's a way to get money into people's pockets by letting them do what they already know — selling food in the street.

Non-motorized food carts are a fixture of other American cities — think of New York hotdog vendors or Hallal carts in Philly — but they haven't been a big part of Boston's food scene in recent decades.

  • They're an even bigger part of the food economy in many of the Latin American countries recent immigrants arrived from.

What's next: Coletta told Axios the Council's government operations committee will hear her proposal later this month.


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