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Tucker Curtin versus the Food Trucks

You’d think that a restaurateur would welcome some competition. You’d think that a diner, when confronted with a popular hamburger food truck, would make a better hamburger to compete. Or tout the fact that it serves booze. You’d think that a person with a monopoly on food on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor would have some self-awareness about it. 

According to Jill Terreri in the Buffalo News, Buffalo restaurateur Tucker Curtin wants Buffalo’s food trucks to operate under much more stringent regulations than any other food business in town, than they operate under currently, and than most trucks in most cities operate. Tucker Curtin owns the Steer, Lake Effect Diner, and Dug’s Dive – all three reasonably forgettable purveyors of mediocre crap, sometimes done up in a trendy way. 

Curtin, whose restaurants I will never again patronize, retained counsel to agitate for rules that include:

– no food truck may operate within 100 feet of any private property of any sort without express permission of the owner or tenants;

– no food truck may park within 25 feet of a hydrant, intersection, or driveway to a lot with more than 10 spots;

– all food trucks must have a restaurant license.

– all food truck workers must have a peddler’s license. Everyone from the kid who heats up your tortilla to the person who writes the ticket;

– that trucks operate under special restrictions on Elmwood and Hertel, not just Buffalo Place;

The trucks in Buffalo pay a $1,000 fee for an annual permit for the privilege of serving food from a mobile unit that has none of the advantages of brick and mortar restaurants. This is about three times what trucks pay in most other cities, and the restrictions effectively forbid them from operating where the people are. Buffalo Place and downtown Buffalo is effectively cut off to them unless they pay another thousand-plus-dollar permit fee –  for the privilege of an inconvenient spot far from where people are.  On Elmwood and Hertel, it’s not easy finding a legal spot when people are out and about.

Curtin’s motives are unknown, but what he is attempting to accomplish amounts to nothing more than protectionism and anticompetitive behavior in a town not noted for its business friendliness or open-mindedness. The fact that the current ordinance was passed was amazing. The fact that it’s too restrictive and too expensive is something that needs to be remedied – not worsened. Tucker Curtin’s restaurants aren’t able to compete effectively with sliders from the Knight Slider truck, so he is going to war. 

I don’t quite want to hear about how Curtin has the right to say or lobby for what he wants. I don’t quite want to hear that he may have a point. He does have the right to agitate for what he wants, and I have a right to despise what he wants and to criticize it. Likewise, I don’t think he has a point at all. If your restaurant serves food that is so forgettably mediocre that a slider truck cleans your clock, maybe you should step up your game instead of lobbying your pals on the Common Council to punish your competition. It is, quite frankly, a prime example of what’s wrong with Buffalo.