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Food trucks fight for rights in downtown Wilmington

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Food trucks and the city of Wilmington could soon work together like burgers and fries.

Food truck owners are pushing for regulation changes that would make it easier to consistently serve their tasty treats in downtown Wilmington.

The Wilmington planning commission met today to discuss changing some of the current regulations that put the squeeze on food trucks running a business downtown.

“People get used to you being in a certain location,” James Smith, owner of food truck, ‘Patty Wagon’ said. “You know your customers aren't going to remember that you were here 44 days ago and tomorrow’s the day you're coming back. You know it needs to be you know an every weekend kind of thing.”

Proposed changes would allow food truck owners like James Smith to apply for annual permits that would give them power to sell their food in downtown Wilmington.

This would also mean there would no longer be a 45-day waiting period.

“We want everyone to come together and agree on what's best for the city, what's best for downtown, and what's best for the business owners,” Brian Chambers, Associate Planner for the Wilmington Planning Commission, said.

Chambers says they have been working with restaurant and food truck owners alike to come up with a solution that everyone can be happy with.

But the discussions didn't start off peacefully.

“In the beginning, yes, I think it was an us versus them kind of thing, and since this, it's kind of actually gotten to be more of an us working together to make downtown what we think it should be,” Smith said.

Those who enjoy the food truck's delectable delights say they want to see more trucks travelling downtown, for more reasons than one.

"Not everybody wants pizza when they get done having fun, and going out and drinking, and having a grand old time,” customer Shannon Giegerich said. “I think it's a wonderful thing to have downtown. That way, you know, I can stop and get a burger. That way we don't have to drive anywhere, and risk other people's lives."

Giegerich says she hopes the proposed regulations go through soon.

"Food trucks are awesome! I say go with it," she said.

The next step is a public hearing before the planning commission on July 10th. From there, the proposed changes move on to city council for approval in August.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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food trucks

Love the food trucks. New York has them, Raleigh has them, along with sit-down restaurants, part of the urban scene.

So the business owners that

So the business owners that have sacrificed years of their lives and thousands of their dollars building up downtown in general and their locations specifically now get to watch as the food trucks roll in to take a cut of the action? When it rains, I'm here. When it's too hot outside to move, I'm here. When the film industry blocks access to my front door, I'm here. When it's a dreadfully slow Tuesday in January, I'm here. When the tourists leave or the college kids go home or the shoppers go to the mall or Mayfaire, I'm here. The bills keep coming, the rent is always due on the first of the month, the employees need to be paid and the advertising budget grows as business slows. When I sell a burger, I have to factor all of these things into the price of the meal. When a food truck owner arrives, it is because the fruit is ripe for the picking. Their expenses are minimal, therefore the same burger can be offered for less. If their business is slow, they have the luxury of moving to another location. If they want to be part of the fabric of downtown, let them make the same investment I make and take the same risks... not just reap the rewards.

Guest 1970

If you think they are that profitable why not use one as an extension of your current restaurant? You could serve a limited menu far away from your current location to entice people to come and have a sit down meal.
As a business man the expense would be business tax deductibles including cost and depreciation, fuel, wages etc........
Personally I view food trucks much the same as I view road side stands that sell shrimp. I buy from ONLY one, as he's the only guy I trust to sell fresh shrimp that's kept cold throughout the day. I have had too many bad experiences with that type of food purveyors. The same holds true for food trucks........
Flaming Amy's has a truck which supposedly has served her stationary restaurant quite well.

Vog

A lot of valid points

Unfortunately, you also essentially stated that by keeping the food trucks out, consumers will be forced to pay more for the same burger, etc. Given a choice, most consumers would rather pay less. They really don't care about your problems. To stay completive, you need to provide added value to the sit-down food experience. That's not always so easy to do.

Hey, I feel your pain, but that's life.

Life is not what you allow

Life is not what you allow to happen to you, life is what you make it to be. My point is that I will fight the food trucks for the very reason that you say they'd be welcomed as a less expensive alternative to eating at a brick and mortar establishment. Just like the American economy is in the toilet because manufacturing has left, Walmart(China) has thrived, and short sighted legislation has put millions on food stamps, so too will things like this kill the downtown. If what you want is cheap food, the location of the food truck shouldn't matter. Let them park in a field somewhere and serve cheap food. What you REALLY want is the experience of downtown, with the added luxury of cheap food. What you'll get in the end is an abandoned downtown that ends up looking a lot like it did 25 years ago. It is the retailers and restaurants that brought it back. Don't forget the past, you'll be doomed to repeat. Nobody is forcing anyone to eat/shop/park/etc downtown, but if you choose to do so, your purchase from a brick and mortar will be re-invested downtown, not carried off on the wheels of a food truck...

Life ..........

It's probably not so much what you allow to happen to you as much as it's what does happen to you. It's neither fair or unfair. Doing one's best to enhance that journey is most certainly the sensible way to approach it.

In my opinion, if your plan is to simply block the trucks, you'll probably wind up with a conclusion that is less than successful. The actual food isn't necessarily cheaper (as in quality), it's less expensive. Saying the location shouldn't matter is most definitely illogical. Valid frustrations aside, we both know that. Prospective customers won't be patronizing the trucks because they want a downtown experience; they'll be people who already are downtown. The trucks aren't a destination, they're an alternative.

You most definitely don't want to hear this, but the whole concept of downtown is developing more and more negative connotations on an almost daily basis. Things like the downtown businesses pushing for that baseball stadium (which would have essentially benefited downtowners) or a city council trying to take beach renourishment funds to repair river walk, haven't exactly left the rest of us with warm and fuzzy feelings about downtown either. Numbers are declining. Is it already dying? Maybe. It's kind of hard to say.

I know you've got a lot invested. Unfortunately, that won't necessarily guarantee your continued success. All you can do is to do your best. Perhaps that means coming up with additional incentives to enhance the brick and mortar food experience so that prospective customers perceive it as an actual desirable destination.

Good luck to you. Unfortunately, you might actually need some.

It is not the investment

It is not the investment itself that guarantees success. There are no guarantees of success. All one can do is attempt to protect the investment the best way one can. As you said, downtown IS in decline... for many reasons. The majority of those reasons have to do with the short sighted nature of decisions made by the governing and regulating entities. As a business owner, I have a responsibility to argue against legislation that I perceive to be ill-conceived and/or short-sighted. If I were to suggest that the food trucks be required to set up at lunchtime, then serve continuously through the end of dinner, and do so a minimum of 5 days /week, I guarantee they would think the suggestion to be insane. This is because there is not enough business to support the endeavor full time. Yet this is what is REQUIRED to maintain a brick and mortar restaurant. The owners of the food trucks have identified certain hours, days, and locations within downtown to focus profitability, then leave. These are the fruits of OUR labor, not to be shared just because somebody else wants to share...

Consumer demand is like water

It has no conscience or ability to rationalize and it will always continue to flow downhill. You can divert it, you can temporarily dam it up and you can float on top of it. What you can't really do is stop it from flowing. If consumers perceive the trucks as a desirable aspect of part of the food and beverage scene, ultimately they'll be there. If you think you can dam it up forever , you're probably incorrect. Sooner or later, no matter how much height you add to your dam, it'll break and crush you like a tsunami.

It doesn't matter if these are the fruits of your labor. Consumer demand can be a capricious and uncaring destroyer of others. Plenty of other industries have already proven that. Life really doesn't give a crap about fair.

Either divert this inevitable flow, move out of its way or find a way to float on top of it. Sit down with yourself and possibly re-think your marketing strategies. Just trying to stop it is just an exercise in futility.

Hey, it's not the first time a human has figured out a way to survive an inexorable flow. I once read somewhere about a man called Noah who purportedly survived a really big one. If he could do it, so can others.

(Thanks for the interchange of ideas. I'm done)