Amherst food truck operator seeks relaxed parking rules

  • Sun Kim, owner of Sun Kim Bop, a Korean fusion food truck, poses for a portrait Friday in Amherst. SARAH CROSBY—

  • Elsayed Abdelgalil, right, owner of New York Halal Food, a food cart in Amherst, hands food to Mohend Salah on Friday afternoon. For a video about food trucks and carts in Amherst, visit this story online at Gazettenet.com. CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/18/2016 7:29:25 PM

AMHERST – An Amherst woman who operates a food truck selling Korean fare is requesting changes to town regulations governing mobile carts to make it easier for local entrepreneurs to succeed.

Sun Kim, of Campbell Court, said in a telephone interview Friday that she intends to attend the Select Board meeting Monday and advocate for relaxing the limits on the locations where she can park her food truck, known as Sun Kim Bop, which she has had permission to operate in Amherst since 2013.

“They are so restrictive,” Kim said of the town’s rules. “I need more room to breathe.”

“I felt I should do something about this,” she added.

Kim said there are only three places her truck is allowed to park, with the best site at the western side of the Town Common along South Pleasant Street, south of Spring Street. The other sites, according to the regulations, are next to Kendrick Park in the northern end of downtown, and near Sweetser Park along Main Street.

But the limited parking on South Pleasant Street means that there are times when all spots are occupied when she arrives.

“Sometimes we drive around and around,” Kim said.

The rules were put in place in 2013 in response to concerns from the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Amherst Business Improvement District about the growing popularity of food carts and trucks, especially their being located near existing brick-and-mortar restaurants.

In Northampton, such mobile enterprises are prohibited from the Central Business District.

Select Board Chairwoman Alisa Brewer said the food cart placement regulations are strict  because of the pressure from established businesses.

“We recognize that restaurants here are not working on huge margins,” Brewer said. “We’re trying to be respectful to the needs they’ve expressed.”

Kim suggests offering flexibility to use any parking spaces surrounding the Town Common, including the Spring Street parking lot and the area of Boltwood Avenue in front of the Lord Jeffery Inn.

Brewer said the board will take Kim’s concerns under advisement, observing that there are times when all spaces are reserved around the common for events such as the Taste of Amherst, the Amherst Rotary Community Fair and the Big Brothers Big Sisters craft fair. 

“We are not going to redo the regulations on Monday night,” Brewer said.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Don Courtemanche said changing the rules is not something he would support.

“Knowing the business community, I would be hesitant to expand on the current food cart regulations,” Courtemanche said.

It’s a delicate balance because food trucks are competing with a  lively and active restaurant scene,  he said.

But Kim said she has found other communities more welcoming than her own.

“I go to many places in Springfield,” Kim said, 

Kim has also faced what she describes as aggressive parking enforcement. “I have received three parking violation tickets and one warning call and one mail warning, only in 2015, whereas I have no tickets in Springfield or other towns since 2013.”

Only one food cart, New York Halal Food, is currently licensed. That is a sidewalk cart set up on the sidewalk at the corner of North Pleasant Street and Kellogg Avenue.

Its owner, Elsayed Abdelgalil, said he has not had any issues with operating the food cart.

“I’ve never had no problem here,” Adelgalil said. “It’s not necessary for me to have a big food truck. I’m OK with this.”

Last year, three were licensed, which, in addition to Sun Kim Bop and New York Halal Food included the Tina Taco food truck from Mission Cantina restaurant.

Isaquiel Desousa, a customer at the Halal stand Friday, said he appreciates having such a place.

“Instead of having to go sit down at a restaurant or actually wait in a big line, you can just come and get some food and keep it going,” Desousa said.

Besides establishing rules on where the carts can go, the Select Board three years ago also set a cap of six on-street lunch cart licenses and four on-sidewalk cart licenses that it could issue.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.




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