Tuesday the city council postponed the decision on food truck access downtown. August 30th they will address the issue again in light of a new report from city staff. This report will include an assessment that considers things like permit fees and minimum distance from restaurants and residential buildings.
The distance issue is of primary concern for both sides- trucks seeing it as a disadvantage and restaurants seeing it as protection. Some food trucks want no required distance, the council is seeking a minimum of 100-150 feet. When council does decide on the rules, Police will be responsible for enforcing them, a responsibility they don't seem happy about. Councilor Crowder said "I see this as a nightmare for the police department," and Councilor Odom echoed "Enforcement is going to be a nightmare, no matter what." That means the only solutions for the pending 'nightmare' are a. no regulations or b. no food trucks. We doubt either extreme is likely, but the slow boil of this particular decision only elevates its perceived importance.
We can't blame city council for not wanting to rush into this- food truck support is coming from a public that sees no problem with them. Dreams of cascading trucks, wrapping city streets, serving exotic fare blind the populace to how they could hurt others. Council's main focus should be to limit damage to the fragile economics that hold downtown retail together. Pioneering restaurants have spent the last 10 years filling in the downtown grid and helping to generate a healthy nightlife culture. Some downtown restaurants have come out in support of food trucks, but others feel the competition is unfair: "The only reason they want to come downtown now is we have made it 'safe' for them," said one business owner who asked to remain anonymous. Retail and entertainment venues are generally supportive, as the trucks give them a loophole to offer food service for patrons without risk or the permits and required kitchen.
Food trucks will come downtown, the council can only study this for so long. And as the September festivals and events pass by the traditional restaurants will be thankful not to have their competition. With talk of a training manual, the rules will be extensive for sure, but enforcement is the least of the council's problems for getting this decision made. Getting the rules right for 'equality' with existing businesses is the impossible task at hand.