Food-truck debate gets hot and loud

Food-truck debate gets hot and loud-attachment0

A meeting in the months-long debate over whether downtown Asheville should allow food trucks turned into an angry confrontation this morning at City Hall.

At issue is whether the city should allow food trucks in its central business district. Food-truck vendors say that they should be allowed to move in from the outskirts of town (where they are currently allowed to vend), while brick-and-mortar restaurant owners argue that the central business district should be free of the possible noise and clutter that they feel food trucks might bring.

City Council will eventually vote on the matter, but until then, the commission has been in research mode. At Friday’s meeting, a few dozen restaurant and business owners, along with other interested folks, met at City Hall to hear data from Downtown Association members on whether food trucks would be a positive addition to downtown.

The floor was open to comment from audience members. Some remarks were apparently heated, according to eyewitnesses (this reporter attended the first 90 minutes of the meeting, but editing duties called).

Suzy Phillips, who operates Gypsy Queen Cuisine Lebanese food out of a truck, asked that the process move ahead faster (the issue has been in discussion since last year, and many meetings have been called to discuss possible regulations should the vendors eventually be allowed to operate in the central business district).

In response to Downtown Commission Chair Dwight Butner’s assertion that food trucks did not have to adhere to the same inspections that restaurants do, Phillips said that in her two months of operation, she had been inspected — twice.

At some point, temperatures rose.

Anthony Cerrato of Fiore’s Ristorante Toscana requested that both sides of the issue speak with respect. Gabriel Shaffer, Suzy Phillip’s husband, took the stand at that point, and apologized for any earlier language on his part that may have been offensive.

Then Downtown Commission chairman Dwight Butner apparently erupted in anger at Shaffer (who admits that he has been “adversarial” throughout the process, according to eyewitnesses).

Joe Minicozzi, Downtown Association Executive Director, describes what happened:

“Several folks from the different ‘camps’ talked about mutual respect, though no one named names,” says Minicozzi. “Gabriel walked up to the podium and basically owned it and apologized for anything that he may have said.”

Shaffer, says Minicozzi, admitted that he’s outraged by the length of time that it is taking for the issue to be resolved. “He made a great statement and then Dwight just — yelled. And it got uncomfortable in the room. I think it was Tim Peck who began yelling ‘point of order.’”

Peck, an Asheville local, unaffiliated with any of the vendors, had his own perspective. Here are his comments, as posted on BlogAsheville:

Dwight Butner was called out of order for overriding the interim chairman’s instructions and then interrupting public comment to berate a member of the audience that he has issues with. His loud and hostile manner motivated someone to ask a police officer to move from the City Hall lobby to the meeting room back row. Another audience member and restaurant owner did the same thing during public comment and began berating Gabriel. I spoke up, saying, ‘You have to address the commission, not the audience.’

CLARIFICATION: Mr. Butner was not formally or vocally called out of order by the interim chair. This was a dereliction on her part but she was under duress (Butner had turned over chairmanship of this portion of the meeting to allow him the opportunity to engage in the general discussion as an interested member).

Butner WAS, however, out of order, in fact. The interim chair cautioned Butner as he began to speak during public comment, Butner loudly insisted that he would indeed speak, in explicit disregard for the chair’s caution, Butner began making heated comments directed at a member of the audience while jabbing the table with his pen, during which I called out ‘Objection!’ from the audience, twice, Butner stopped commenting and a police officer entered the room to sit in the back shortly thereafter. When the agenda item was concluded, the officer left the chamber.

Shaffer posted this on his Facebook page:

I don’t have long to update, need to get to work, so this will be very very brief. Today’s meeting was heated, but, I feel, productive. Despite the fact that some of the concerned parties repeated arguments that have been talked to death, it is obvious this is going to happen. It’s just a questions of how and when. Most of the commission members are behind this. Public opinion for it is just too strong.

The most interesting moment for me, was when I was accused by Michel from Bouchon of ‘trash talking,’ which has nothing to do with policy. Then Dwight chimed in that I had been ‘threatening’ his wife online, which I’m still trying to figure out what he’s talking about.

Although I have been very adversarial throughout, I have never made threats. Mr. Butner went so far as to raise his voice and yell, while pounding the table in anger. All I heard in my head was the sound of monks chanting, well aware that the more he lost his temper, the better off we were.

This was probably the best thing he could have done for us at this meeting by demonstrating his emotional attachment to the issue. I would say that when an opponent’s only option is to start complaining about trash talking, they are involved in a losing battle.

However, my days of playing bad cop with this issue are over. The work has been done on my part, it’s going to happen, no matter how much kicking and screaming from the opponents.

All power to the pita!

Minicozzi says that he’s surprised by Butner’s reaction. “I don’t know what happened to elicit that response.” Still, Butner has worked hard to help build downtown. “From Dwight’s perspective, he’s exercising democracy,” Minicozzi says. “We are a government for the people and by the people — he’s putting himself in positions to have influence. He is a downtown resident, business owner and restaurateur, so the way he sees it, he’s three times invested in downtown.” For that reason, says Minicozzi, he’s passionate about the downtown district.

Jimi Rentz, owner of Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria, is equally surprised by Butner’s outburst. “That’s unusual for Dwight,” he says. “Obviously, there must have been something there, something tangible to make him that upset, though I’m not sure what it was. He’s an agreeable guy — of course, he’s opinionated as hell, but who isn’t.”

Though Rentz agrees that frustration over the length of time it’s taking to resolve the issue is understandable, the process, he says, is in place for a reason. “The commissioners are going to go over every aspect that they can think of concerning these food trucks,” he says. “The ordinance that prohibits food trucks was put on the books 25 years ago to make sure that the historic buildings in downtown Asheville stayed full of tenants.”

Earlier discussion at the meeting included a presentation by the Asheville Downtown Association with feedback from Asheville visitors, residents and stake-holders surveyed about the issue.

The data show that Asheville Downtown Association members are split about 50-50 on the matter. When combined with feedback from everyone else surveyed (out of a total of 664 responses), approximately 75 percent of those surveyed thought that food trucks would be a positive addition to downtown.

 

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68 thoughts on “Food-truck debate gets hot and loud

  1. bill smith

    [b]while brick-and-mortar restaurant owners argue that the central business district should be free of the possible noise and clutter that they feel food trucks might bring.[/b]

    Please. Why don’t they just admit the economy is bad and they want to limit competition?

    “Noise and clutter”. Ha!

  2. sharpleycladd

    We could make all business activity illegal in downtown Asheville, while “grandfathering in” everybody who’s here right now. Would that solve the problem?

  3. Jeff Fobes

    Joel Burgess, reporting for the Citizen-Times, says in a story filed June 10:

    “[An Asheville Police] officer was called into the meeting after Downtown Commission Chairman Dwight Butner, who was speaking as a member of the public, and two other meeting attendees began shouting, said acting Chairwoman Kitty Love.

    “Love said she attempted to calm the trio, two of whom are restaurateurs and one of whom is a food truck owner. By the time the officer arrived, the parties had backed down, she said.”

  4. Isle of Man

    Geez people, let the market decide.

    All the technical details surrounding this issue boil down to the simple fact that restaurant owners are just scared of competition and variety and don’t want to spend the time and money to adapt and evolve. If I owned a restaurant in downtown, I can’t say I’d feel any differently, but part of opening/owning a business is a lot of risk and you should realize that going into it, rather than rely on the city government to protect you. Also, food truck vendors will more often than not be filling gaps of choice, not providing the same thing offered at sit-down restaurants.

    I feel for the restaurateurs but legalizing and restricting consumer choice when the vast majority of locals want to see this happen is not in the spirit of our town. Tons of other small cities like Portland have a vibrant food truck AND restaurant community and it hasn’t killed either.

  5. Voltro

    Noise and clutter, indeed. Been downtown on a weekend night lately?

    There has to be a compromise in here somewhere. What about designating and permitting times and areas for operation? Lots of other cities with vibrant downtown areas embrace food carts and trucks, especially those with active nightlife districts like ours. How many restaurants downtown serve food after 11 pm? Just a handful. Allowing food trucks will make downtown more attractive to tourists and young people.

  6. The opposition to food truck alternatives just smacks of protectionism. Competition always brings out your best or you sink. It’s the American way.

  7. If food trucks are not allowed downtown, then I’m going in front of City Council to get those pesky Redbox machines removed.

  8. Mr. Butner’s “heated comments” were directed at Mr. Shaffer (husband of truck owner Phillips). Butner claimed that Shaffer was somehow “frightening his wife.” We are still not sure what he meant by that.

    Mr. Butner may have a legitimate complaint but this exchange was inappropriate for a sitting board member at a government meeting during public comment.

    Mr. Shaffer will be following up with Butner to discover the cause of his grief and Shaffer’s role in it, if any, and to apologize, if necessary.
    ……………………………………..

  9. After the public comment period, commission member and city councilman Jan Davis made it clear that this process will drag on into next year.

    First, the matter must be analyzed by the Mobile Food Vending Subcommittee. The subcommittee’s recommendations will be issued to the Downtown Commission for a vote of approval. The DTC draft regulation would then likely become the subject of a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. A further technical review might also be required by city staff. Then the matter would be scheduled on the city council agenda for a public hearing and then again for a final vote. Upon approval by city council, the ban on food truck would be lifted and truck owners could begin operating in the downtown area.

    Certainly, a careful and thorough process is required. But food truck vending is a fairly seasonal venture and time is of the essence. I have to wonder what is taking so long. I saw no progress whatever at the Friday meeting. Only slide shows and surveys. No recommendations to the commission, no draft regulation, no announcement of the next subcommittee meeting. Apparently, another report will be made to the DTC next month. Another costly delay for poor entrepreneurs who are struggling to make a living in a jobless city during an economic downturn.

    I implored the DTC to expedite this matter, but at this point, it looks like the vendors will not be seen downtown this year.

    It’s going to be a good Spring.

  10. Meantime there are plenty of outdoor festivals, etc that can certainly be a way to get the lebanese food out to the public.

  11. After the public comment period, commission member and city councilman Jan Davis made it clear that this process will drag on into next year.

    Is Mr. Davis up for re-election?

    I also wonder how many people wanting food trucks downtown were AGAINST Urban Outfitters opening.

  12. Yes, Mr. Davis is up for re-election this year. He has not indicated whether or not he will run again.
    ……………………………….

  13. Victory for El Paso Street Vendors
    Institute for Justice Scores a Quick and Decisive Win in National Battle to Protect Economic Liberty
    http://www.ij.org/about/3830

    “IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative recently scored its first victory when the city of El Paso repealed its protectionist regulations that had prohibited vendors from operating within 1,000 feet of any restaurant, grocer or convenience store, and also prohibited vendors from stopping and waiting for customers…”

  14. bashmacs

    “How many restaurants downtown serve food after 11 pm? Just a handful. Allowing food trucks will make downtown more attractive to tourists and young people.”

    Just to clarify: 11? try 10 pm. and that’s even a stretch. I can count on one hand which restaurants those are.

    How many new bars and music venues have been opening in the past year especially, on top of the existing ones? And they’re open until 2.

    Not to mention, the Peel packs in people for major shows on any given night of the week. And every week, at that.

    All I can see from the opposing side is just that, opposition for the sake of opposition. They just don’t want to adapt. They like the way it is. There are areas in and around downtown that would be great for food trucks to park. Not to mention, those restaurants (which are the vast majority) that are closed past 10, how about parking in front after hours?

    And TOURISTS? I’m sick of everyone downtown having a one-track-tourist-mind about business. That’s the problem, people! Sure we’re a “tourist town” in ways, but I’d say we attract those tourists in large parts because they are fascinated about our exemplary local economy anyway. Aside from that, we’d have much more local traffic is downtown was more accessible financially to various demographics throughout the greater Asheville area.

    Ever heard of free enterprise? Suck it up.

  15. AshevilleDude

    why don’t we do away with all the free music downtown then? this makes it harder for music venues to operate when there is a better deal (free music)! There is competition everywhere. Evolution.

  16. ashevillain7

    I don’t really care whether they allow food trucks downtown or not but one huge question I would have is: Where will they set up?

    Street space is already pretty tight. Everyone already pretty much complains that the central business district is not a place where one can park in front of (or even near in some cases) an establishment and conduct a quick order of business. If a food truck were to set up within this area it would pretty much eliminate the possibility of people driving up to patronize the truck. Pretty much only foot traffic will be able to consistently reach a downtown food truck for a quick meal (basically the same clientele that patronize the existing food carts). How many people would be willing to pay to park in a parking deck and walk across town just to grab a quick bite? This kind of defeats the purpose if you are looking for a fast cheap meal on-the-go.

    The location currently being used on Broadway across from Moog Music lends itself well to BOTH foot traffic AND drive up vehicle traffic. Same for the West Asheville location.

    I have eaten at the GQC food truck a number of times (and man I do have to say I love them falafels and shawarmas!) and EVERY time they have been busy. There has been a line of people waiting for their meal. I’m not so intrusive that I am going to ask how they are doing financially or to take a look at their books but it seems like they are already operating near capacity when it takes 10-15min or so for a falafel. I’m pretty sure that the GQC facebook page has a number of posts telling customers when they close down for the day due to selling out of products. Seems like they are doing pretty well for themselves already.

    This issue is being presented as though it’s necessary for these food vendors to be allowed downtown so they can make a living. From my point of view, observing the already steady flow of customers it seems to me that it’s more an issue of they just want to be allowed downtown because they are currently forbidden. This is understandable as humans always want to do what they are not allowed to. I just would question whether it is absolutely necessary for them to be there in order to make a living. I don’t think it will hurt their business to be located on the outskirts….nor do I think it will certainly help their business to be located within the restricted area.

    I wish all of the food vendors the best. I love them. Same for the restaurants (most of them). I don’t have a dog in the fight. I just think that more questions need to be asked and more thought put into it instead of this back and forth squabbling that’s being done. Both the truck vendors and current restaurant owners should hush for a while and let other (non-stakeholding) citizens talk.

    And someone please start up a Mexican street style taco truck/cart and a Jamaican jerk one too!

  17. bashmacs

    to consider, the parking garages downtown do grant you the first hour free. so there’s that.

    there are various parking lots (i.e. churches, mainly, are the ones that I can think of, but also the social services building, etc.) in and around downtown which may be possible to negotiate a few spaces for a truck to use, depending on the day. or maybe more. it’s just a matter of communication with the existing businesses.

    there is that huge new parking garage being built on Biltmore… why not designate part of the top area to trucks? seems like a great compromise to me.

    just thinking out loud, you dig?

  18. I’m pretty much inclined to approve food trucks for all of the positive reasons offered, but confounded on how to regulate them.

    If we allow them downtown, and issue permits, we would need to “police” the permits — since anyone could then pull a truck into downtown and start serving food, whether or not they had obtained a permit. (At least one truck is already violating the current law, reportedly on a regular basis.) If we require permits and don’t enforce the rule, then what’s the point? And how would it be fair to permit holders if we allowed non-permitted competition?

    In order to police permits, we would need either a zoning inspector (which is the department currently charged with enforcement) or a police officer (if we made vending without a permit a criminal offense) assigned to the chore. We can’t use a current zoning officer, since they are daytime employees, and the zoning department has indicated that they would be very reluctant to assign just ONE inspector to night duty (since trucks may well operate past midnight, with an often predictably inebriated clientele, and etc.) So add at least one total position. And the police are already doing their work, so we might add a cop if that’s the enforcement route we choose.

    Let’s say we can fund one new employee for $40,000 per year (inclusive of all expenses). Let’s say we have 10 legitimate vendors who want to operate within the law and serve food downtown. Should annual permits be $4,000? If not, then who should pay for enforcement of the new rule? The current discussions seem to have considered a proposal of $150 per truck per year. Does that mean we need to permit 266 trucks to meet our goal of full cost recovery in fees for service? And then, can one new inspector be responsible for 266 trucks on a daily basis?

    You see the problem, I’m sure.

    Perhaps the best alternative is NO PERMITS, but simply open the gates and leave it to the County Health Department to enforce the restaurant cleanliness standards on every truck they choose to inspect, leaving it to the County to hire a new night watchman to ensure that no uninspected trucks are vending food. But then, who pays for that enforcement? Will the County actually undertake daily health inspection patrols?

    Happy to hear any great ideas that might be generated here.
    -c

  19. “Where will they set up?”

    That should properly be up to the food truck operator. If they can identify a suitable location that will earn them a profit, and thus make it worthwhile, then that’s where they’ll set up. This should be based on a contract between the operator and a given property owner. (No food trucks will be allowed on public property.)

    Unfortunately, city bureaucrats think they have the business acumen to identify suitable sites, designate them as official mobile food truck sites and then assign operators to sites. Not a single site identified by the DTC is acceptable to a poor entrepreneur seeking to optimize their earnings.

    Bah.
    ………………………..

  20. “Seems like they are doing pretty well for themselves already.”

    That’s partly because a number of us are FB posting, tweeting and retweeting their remote location every day to compensate for the fact that they cannot locate downtown.

  21. Jason Ross Martin

    Keep the food trucks out of downtown. There is nowhere for them to park, no way to enforce the health codes on them in terms of garbage and other disposal issues, no way to fairly put a price tag on the attempt of a few individuals to change the playing field of food service in downtown in this significant way.

    This is not a matter of trying to stop “competition”. What we want to stop are the efforts of a few individuals to envision a business which is illegal in downtown, and then use the race card and other dubious political maneuvers to try to get laws changed to help them circumvent the process of getting a restaurant going and established in downtown. I have zero sympathy for those who ‘can’t get a loan’ to start a business. Save your money, and try to birth your vision the way the other downtown restaurant owners have done. Maybe you can get someone to do a kickstarter for that, too. Maybe the real proving grounds for a potential restaurant owner downtown is if they can gradually grow the vision from a food CART to whatever else they envision. I have already lived out the effects of our economy on a small, family-owned restaurant that was forced to close. I do not think someone’s food truck should be allowed to undo the previous work and efforts of those who competed under the current set of rules and guidelines. This is totally unfair to the real visionaries who have helped create the downtown scene that we now enjoy. And to undermine the jobs of dozens if not hundred of restaurant workers that are already downtown just to give a few individuals a fast-track to viability that was not available to the old school? That would be a tragic decision by city council.

    There will be significant political fallout for the city council people who undermine the very fragile restaurant economy of downtown by kowtowing to a few arrogant newcomers to the scene.

    Please, City Council members, do not relent to the pressure of those who would threaten the downtown economy and livelihood of those who are already there, legally, having played the game according to the rules! Let the food trucks park on the outskirts of town, in West Asheville, in the River Arts District, but not in Downtown.

  22. ashevillain7

    Broadway and Haywood Road are “remote” locations? LOL. As I previously made the point, they are both well within foot traffic distance as well as exposed to more car traffic than downtown. A “remote” location would be, say, the Pisgah National Forest.

    …and Tim, don’t try to take credit for someone else’s hard work while you post from your Ivory Tower. There are what, maybe 4 locations tops that the GQC food truck operates from regularly? It’s not that hard to find….this isn’t a ‘Where’s Waldo” puzzle. Locating that truck now is no more difficult than it would be any given day if located downtown. (Are you going to stop tweeting it’s location just because it’s downtown?)

    @ cecilbothwell – Enforcement-wise this situation should be treated no differently than if another brick and mortar restaurant opened. Food trucks are already allowed…just not in the central business district. Why would the geographical location make a difference from an enforcement perspective?

  23. Sarah

    Where are the food trucks aloud to park their trucks? I was just thinking it must be difficult to find a place to vend on private land or in the city. I can only think of a few places downtown where a food truck could actually park…and that would mostly be on public sidewalks or in parking areas. I’m not familiar with the rules or guidelines.

  24. lee

    To address the comment a few posts back: While the top (I assume you mean the roof level) of parking garages seems like a good idea, I doubt that these vehicles could travel up through the garage to get there due to their height. I scraped the top of a passenger van in the Rankin garage once and it was nowhere near as tall as a food truck. Just sayin’. Good thought though.

  25. “(Are you going to stop tweeting it’s location just because it’s downtown?)”

    Yes.
    …………………………..

  26. “I can only think of a few places downtown where a food truck could actually park”

    This is the business of the food truck entrepreneurs who are risking their capital to provide value to the community and make a profit and the private property owners who welcome their presence.
    …………………………

  27. bill smith

    Jason Ross Martin states:

    “This is not a matter of trying to stop “competition”.

    But then later states:

    “I do not think someone’s food truck should be allowed to undo the previous work and efforts of those who competed under the current set of rules and guidelines”.

    Isn’t that a contradiction? Isn’t preventing new people form coming in because you want to preserve the existing restaurants ‘stopping competition’?

    He continues: “This is totally unfair to the real visionaries who have helped create the downtown scene that we now enjoy.”

    Julian Price was against food carts?

    “There will be significant political fallout for the city council people who undermine the very fragile restaurant economy of downtown by kowtowing to a few arrogant newcomers to the scene. ”

    Right. But it’s not about preventing competition.

  28. Isle of Man

    Jason Ross Martin’s comment is so ridiculous it nearly comes off as parody.

    “Arrogant newcomers?” That’s pretty ironic, considering your position of exclusion is the height of arrogance. Not to mention the sentiment that only independently wealthy individuals should be allowed to serve food in downtown. Save your money? Hmmm… let’s see. I guess that’ll only take someone working the average Asheville job about 150 years to save enough to open a traditional restaurant. A loan? Yeah, I heard banks were really doling those out by the heaps to start-ups these days.

    You sound like old brass struggling against the tides of the inevitable.

  29. Jason Ross Martin

    It’s not about preventing competition. It’s about preventing someone from changing laws to make the competition UNFAIR.

  30. @ ashevillain7: Your response to me arrives at the same point I made, albeit from a different direction. All consideration of new regulation and permits simply clutters the discussion. Either the same rules should be applied City-wide, or not. The whole argument only hinges on whether we want to permit food trucks downtown.

    Even the notion of “assigned location” begs the question of the cost of enforcement, since we are not currently enforcing the downtown ban. And enforcement is highly problematic.

    “Location” becomes a zoning issue, I believe, and enforcement of zoning rules is approximately impossible on a mobile vendor. If a violator is caught they have 15 minutes to move, and then there’s no zoning violation. A second infraction might result in charges, but only if it is in the same precise location.

  31. Let’s all keep in mind that food trucks are completely allowed in Asheville; just not downtown.
    ……………………..

  32. bill smith

    JRM-[i]It’s about preventing someone from changing laws to make the competition UNFAIR. [i]

    What laws do you think are being changed?

    And how is it ‘unfair’?

  33. Jason Ross Martin

    I do not accept food trucks downtown as inevitable. This argument has not been won, contrary to the multiple posts by Gabriel Shaffer, who stands to directly profit if he succeeds in getting the law CHANGED to make his wife’s proposition legal.

  34. bill smith

    @cecilbothwell-

    My understanding is food trucks are regulated by the state, not the city.

    Am I mistaken?

    If they are indeed regulated by teh state, what power does the city of asheville have to regulate them?

    Thank you in advance.

  35. “Shaffer, who stands to directly profit if he succeeds in getting the law CHANGED to make his wife’s proposition legal.”

    By what right does the city make this type of business enterprise illegal in the first place? The default position is economic freedom. The city has interfered to constrain that freedom and is now trying to rectify this infringement. I say let’s revert to the default and let free adults freely trade value for value to mutual benefit.
    …………………………….

  36. Bill, I don’t know the answer but will find out. Obviously the City is able to regulate WHERE they operate, else we wouldn’t have the rule keeping them out of downtown.

  37. contentpersephone

    I can think of less than half a dozen “spaces” downtown that a private owner *might* be willing to lease to a food truck. Property taxes and insurance still have to be paid, even on an “unimproved” lot.

    If, as Tim Peck says above, food trucks are not going to be allowed on public property (taking up much-needed parking downtown), then I suppose it is easy to say that we should “let the market decide”.

    EXCEPT: what happens when these (very) few “spaces” are gone? So it’s cool to have one or two food trucks, in our quest for everything cheaper, cheaper, cheaper…..but tough luck to any “latecomers”?

    Or what about the concerns that Cecil B has attempted to address above? Who’s going to regulate these trucks? And who’s going to pay for that? The fact that it would take 266 trucks to pay for *one* enforcement officer should give us all pause for thought.

    Who’s paying for the proposed “designated areas” that the City is allegedly considering?

    Food CARTS are already permitted and regulated by the city. Personally, I doubt anyone, except the operator of the carts, makes a dime from this current arrangement – but it is certainly an avenue that is already available to those who don’t currently have the funds for a food TRUCK or restaurant. and it’s already legal.

  38. why is it that most bureaucrats feel they have the right to regulate nearly every aspect of our lives?

    further, why is it that the people keep electing such bureaucrats?

    does the majority simply desire slavery?

    based upon the ongoing insanity in regards to this and so many other issues, i guess so.

  39. bill smith

    [i]why is it that most bureaucrats feel they have the right to regulate nearly every aspect of our lives?[/i]

    Why is it that you pretend laws arent often brought into existence for the public good at the behest of the public?

    Ahhh, libertarian anarchists. Gotta love em.

  40. Margaret Williams

    kudos to everyone keeping this thread civil, but some pending comments seem to get personal and won’t post. Please criticize the ideas, not the people.

  41. Isle of Man

    Some schizophrenic moderation standards going on here.

    Anyway, if we lived in a world that catered exclusively to Mr. Martin’s philosophy, we’d have only three TV channels to watch, since the cable stations had to fight in order to change the laws of the FCC and break up the monopolies of the Big 3. How dare stations like CNN and Discovery circumvent the traditional monopolized broadcasting tradition and go straight to syndication!

    We’d also have only one or two types of beer to drink, probably Bud and Miller, since the craft beer industry had to basically unionize and fight the existing laws of beer distribution. Can you believe the gall of breweries like Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams not opening their start-up businesses back in the 1980s without millions of dollars and exclusive distribution rights?! That was so unfair! I mean, I don’t know about you, but I think it’s scandalous that we can buy Boston Lager in this market! In a “fair” and just world, we’d see only High Life and Bud Lite on the shelves at Earthfare.

  42. dpewen

    As a downtown resident I don’t mind the trucks downtown but I don’t use them since there are many established places to eat. I do use them when I go to places that do not have food. I also agree that regulations should be established and enforced. I also do not feel like a slave or a sheep because laws are made … otherwise we would have anarcy!

  43. Cecil, would the permits only be for downtown? Are these trucks being policed in other parts of the city now?

    JRM, I look across at a half-empty parking lot on N. Lexington pretty much every day. There’s other places on Broadway and Coxe that could work as well.

    Do these food truck owners expect to be parked on Haywood St. or the Vance Memorial?

  44. As far as I’m aware, the City has nothing to do with permitting any food trucks at present. It simply prohibits them from the Downtown Business District.

  45. Lisa Watters

    As someone who works downtown I would love it if there were more affordable options for lunch – so my vote is to allow food trucks to operate downtown. I definitely support our local restaurants but there has to be more options for people who don’t make a lot of money.

  46. Jake

    I just returned from a visit to Portland, OR. In their downtown, they have a designated lot for food vendors to set up. The amount of space is limited, and there are no food trucks anywhere else.

    We’ve got that lot across the street from the Basilica that has been lying fallow forever. Why not designate that and rent spaces?

  47. Voltro

    What’s a food cart permit cost, and how is it enforced/regulated? Anyone know? Seems like there might be a semblance of precedent there.

  48. sharpleycladd

    The Basilica lot is a great idea – go ahead and park part of it up, use licensing and rents to maintain and enforce food safety standards! It would be poetic justice, really – one of those misbegotten big city development deals that winds up benefiting very, very small businesses. Much better to help out some owner operators than give some developer a chance to hire more bellhops.

    In fact, that garage being developed at 51 Biltmore would be a good candidate for a small business incubator, too!

  49. bill smith

    [i]What’s a food cart permit cost, and how is it enforced/regulated? Anyone know? Seems like there might be a semblance of precedent there. [/i]

    Food cart, or food truck?

    My understanding, for a truck, there are various permits first from the state, then down to the local level. I also recall that you had to have access to a certified kitchen. I may be mistaken.

  50. Voltro

    Cart.

    I may be oversimplifying, but I have a hard time seeing significant differences between the two. I’m assumimg that since Ive seen them operating downtown, carts are currently allowed?

    To me, they seem to operate on a very similar business model. I’m not in the food service biz, so maybe someone could enlighten me how vending from a cart is signifcantly different than vending from a truck.

  51. LLJK

    Why not just ban food trucks in the entire county while we’re at it?

  52. Ashevegasjoe

    It seems like simply having a permit and a health inspector, like any other restaurant, would solve the issue. I realize that health inspectors have a heavy load currently, but you’re talking about a relatively small number of trucks that could be inspected in the same parking lot they operate, in a single morning. I don’t see why we would need a whole new officer or position. Health inspectors don’t constantly monitor restaurants, they perform random inspections– it seems like one could devote a half-day to this issue, if the trucks were in a specific location.

    Also, if you have a restaurant downtown, and are threatened by food out of a truck, I would guess you’ll be going out of business no matter how this issue is resolved. No one going to Table is going to stop en route and say, “Hey, lets just get an empanada.” It is a totally separate demographic. And, most weekends there are already festival vendors selling street food at the Pack or Lexington, I haven’t heard cries of unfair competition about that.

  53. Jake

    I hope Council folks are keeping up with this thread, because food trucks seem like a pretty manageable thing within current resources if they are located only in a designated area.

  54. Jennifer Blevins: “Mobile food trucks are allowed to operate under a temporary use permit in any zoning district other than residential districts and the Central Business District. They must find a private parcel of land and come to an agreement with the property owner to allow them to be there and then apply for the permit. They are allowed to operate from 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. for up to 180 days in any calendar year on any one parcel of land. Those days can be consecutive or intermittent, they just specify on the permit application which days of the week they will be working. They can also have more than one permit active at a time. For example, they could be at one location Monday – Friday and another on the weekends.”

  55. City of Asheville Code of Ordinances
    Chapter 7 – DEVELOPMENT
    ARTICLE XIV. – ACCESSORY AND TEMPORARY USES AND STRUCTURES
    Sec. 7-14-2. – Temporary uses and structures.
    (d) Short term temporary uses/structures
    (3) Additional standards.
    (e) Mobile food sales.

    Mobile food sales or stands may be allowed in all non-residential districts outside of the central business district provided that uses/structures for mobile food sales are compliant with the following standards.

    1. Hours of operation. Temporary food stands shall be allowed from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., with specific hours of operation indicated on the temporary use permit.

    2. Proximity to public right-of-way. All sales shall be conducted at least ten feet from all public rights-of-way.

    3. Health department approval. Any food service operation that sells, prepares, or serves food must obtain an approved mobile food service permit from the Buncombe County Health Department and is subject to inspection.

    http://is.gd/uBdf7P

  56. Betty Cloer Wallace

    ….. allowed in any zoning district other than residential districts…..

    Remember the good old days when the ice cream trucks and potato chip/cookie trucks used to come through our residential neighborhoods?

    I still miss them.

  57. boatrocker

    You mean the rest of you don’t have the ice cream truck roll through your neighborhood? Whenever I hear “Turkey in the Straw”, I know it’s Nutty Buddy time.

    It’s like a weird Pavlovian thing ingrained in me ever since I was a kid. The difference is the ice cream truck travels under its own power unlike a food cart I suppose.

  58. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Whatever the tune, “Pavlovian” is a good descriptor for the ice cream truck; and if it still comes to your neighborhood, boatrocker, I AM JEALOUS AND DEMAND EQUAL ACCESS TO THAT TRUCK!

    Now, about that potato chip truck. I can’t remember the brand, but I still have one of their canisters in storage somewhere–yellowish with brown flecks and brown letters. The truck would pick up my empty canister weekly and leave a newly filled one on my front stoop.

    Drool, drool. Slurp, slurp.

  59. bill smith

    @Voltro-Good questions. I have no idea. I recall looking into the paperwork a few years back, and it was all predictably convoluted and absurd.

  60. Was that Charlie Chips around here? That’s what we had in Memphis. I remember there being a popcorn truck around Christmas time as well.

  61. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Orbit, yes, it was Charles Chips. Yum! Evidently they quit home deliveries some time ago, were bought and sold several times, and whoever owned the name in 1996 changed the recipe. The history of the company is interesting:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Chips

    Come to think of it, there were lots of home deliveries and roaming food trucks in the 1970s: chips etc., milk, laundry and dry cleaning, diaper service, hot dogs, sandwiches, slushy icees, soft drinks, soft ice cream, ice cream bars, popcorn.

    I suppose expensive gas eliminated most of them. Now I wonder how (or even if) they were regulated.

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