Ordinance Threatens Street Vendors

Long-Neglected City Rule May Force Arrests of Unlicensed Food Sellers

For more than 30 years, lunch trucks have offered Harvard students and faculty an alternative to bleak dining hall fare.

Now a long neglected city ordinance threatens to close dozens of unlicensed food vehicles and to send their owners to jail.

Cambridge street vendors are required to obtain licenses from the City of Cambridge Licensing Commission, the Health Department, and the State of Massachusetts.

But according to Richard V. Scali, executive director of the licensing commission, only 12 vendors are licensed for this year.

Scali estimates that there are "probably around 25-30, maybe more" vendors on the streets. Scali said he is preparing to order the city police department to arrest unlicensed vendors.


One vendor, who identified himself only as Isaac, sells falafel and other Middle Eastern food on Oxford St. outside the Science Center.

Isaac said he is waiting to receive his license for this year. He said he fears that his business, which serves 75 to 80 people a day, might suffer if he were forced to move.

"I have been here for twelve years, and everyone knows me here," he said. "If I move, I can't make my living."

One of Isaac's customers, Hugh Wilburn, head of public services at the Graduate School of Design, said he would be sorry to see Isaac go.

"[Isaac's truck] is convenient and quick," he said, "And I would be really sorry to see this disappear."

Another vendor, Dean E. Velozo, who works on Divinity Ave. outside the Peabody Museum, proudly brandished his 1993license. He said is father started as a streetvendor in 1961.

Once of Velozo's customers, Sandra N. Rosen, asecretary in the Fairchild Biochemistry Building,called his calzone "the best in the world."

"I eat here lots, and I think that everyone inthe Biology Lab does," Rosen said.

Harvard Dining Services officials said theyhave mixed feelings about street vendors.

Robert J. Symonds, the assistant manager of theGreenhouse Cafe, yesterday said, "We don't believe[street vendors] are really taking away from ourbusiness."

But Symonds said Greenhouse officials do worrythat vendors' customers take seats from Greenhousepatrons. "The only problem we have is that theybring in food and take up table space from ourcustomers," Symonds said