No Food Trucks At Cisco Beach This Summer After Health Department Crackdown

Jason Graziadei •

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The Cisco Beach parking lot. Photo by Kit Noble |

There will be no food trucks allowed to operate at Cisco Beach this summer after the Nantucket Health Department notified the Land Bank - which owns the property - that it would be enforcing a section of the food code that requires formal bathroom facilities with hot water for food establishments.

The Land Bank’s request for a variance from the code was unanimously denied by the Board of Health late last month.

“As a result, no food vendors will be allowed at Cisco Beach this summer,” the Land Bank staff informed the Land Bank Commission during its meeting on Tuesday. The Land Bank typically seeks requests from vendors to operate at its Cisco Beach property, and licenses as many as two to three food trucks to operate there, along with a hot dog cart.

While there are porta potty facilities at Cisco Beach, they are not considered safe or sufficient for people handling food at the beach, the Health Department told the Land Bank. Even though some of the food trucks have internal sinks with hot water, the concern is that employees could contaminate food when washing their hands inside the food prep area after returning from a porta potty.

While the Land Bank considered installing a larger trailer bathroom facility that would run on a generator, it ultimately determined it would not be feasible to maintain.

“Unfortunately, so far we haven’t come up with an agreement that would suit what we feel would be necessary for the safety of mobile food units at Cisco Beach,” said Health Department inspector Sean Reid. “The reason why porta potties aren’t allowed to be used for food establishments is because of contaminants in a porta potty. When you use one and go back to a food prep area, those contaminants are all over you and not just on your hands.”

Jack Decker, who has run the Nantucket Beach Dogs hot dog cart at Cisco Beach since 2011, said he plans to seek his own variance from the Health Department at an upcoming meeting that would allow him to continue operating this summer. John Hedden, the town’s chief environmental officer, indicated the regulations may be more lenient for a hot dog cart versus a food truck, given that hot dogs are precooked, and the cart is not an enclosed food prep area.

In recent years, Sushi Sean and Nantaco have also operated food trucks at Cisco Beach.

“For us, everything about the beach and the food truck was a total win,” said Nantaco owner Lee Milazzo. “I’m certainly sorry to see it go. When I got to the beach, I’d like to be able to get some food down there and not have to leave and go somewhere else.”

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The Nantaco and Sushi Sean food trucks at Cisco Beach last summer.

The Board of Health discussed the Land Bank’s variance request for more than an hour late last month but ultimately voted to reject it, citing the lack of a formal bathroom facility with hot running water for the food truck vendors to utilize at Cisco Beach.

“This is a daily scenario, a permanent scenario, it’s not a temporary event,” Hedden said, referring to the food trucks operating at the beach during the summer. “We’d like to see a permanent solution which would be a regular bathroom. That is really where we stand. I don’t know if the Land Bank has plans for a permanent facility out there or not.”

Hedden said the food code regulation the Health Department is enforcing had been on the books since 1982.

Eleanor Antonietti, the Land Bank’s special projects coordinator, told the Board of Health that it had explored the purchase of a portable restroom facility. Antonietti said the cost - while high - wasn’t the problem, but rather the lack of power and plumbing at Cisco Beach. Such a facility would require an outdoor generator and hot water heater, which the Land Bank was hesitant to install given the monitoring and maintenance it would require.

“It’s about the concerns we had with the generator, which would be a safety hazard and would have to be used on demand,” Antonietti said. “To turn it over to the vendors and their employees, that’s a lot of responsibility. I don’t think we want to put that on the shoulders of the vendors. Our field crews are stretched thin as it is, with the massive swaths of property that they have to cover in the summer. So there’s just a lot of logistical elements the commission was leery of.”

Several people, including members of the Board of Health, seemed mystified that the regulations would preclude food trucks at the beach.

"I’m wondering why we’re being such sticklers?" asked Board of Health member Ann Smith, suggesting that food truck staff could use hand sanitizer instead.

Hedden responded by stating that the "food code does not allow sanitizer to be a substitution for hand washing." 

Restaurant owner John Keane, who owns Kitty Murtagh's, Town, and Queeequegs, was in attendance at the meeting and also appeared perplexed.

"This seems a little silly right now," Keane said.

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