Food (truck) fight: Could a turf war incite new regulations?
Wed, Mar 21, 2012 (4 p.m.)
Photo: Leila Navidi
A couple of years ago two guys with a tricked-out food truck serving gourmet burgers parked their mobile kitchen off Paradise Road, hoping to catch the hungry late-night gay bar crowd, as well as patrons from the Double Down Saloon. Legally, they could do this. And when a nearby business owner, who also served food, called Metro to the scene, Metro saw the paperwork and agreed.
Too late. Colin Fukunaga, co-owner of now-famous food truck Fukuburger, didn’t want to stick around where he wasn’t wanted. He took his business to Chinatown, made a name for Fukuburger and then expanded into other parts of the Valley and a full restaurant in LA.
But that’s only the beginning of a larger story playing out in cities across the country as the food truck/ restaurant turf war grows. It’s a battle fueled by brick-and-mortar restaurants complaining that food trucks parked nearby steal customers without having to pay the same taxes and overhead.
Officials in other cities have discussed everything from restricting duration of food truck stays to mandating minimum distance from restaurants to banning them from commercial districts to giving neighborhoods the say on the number of mobile vendors in their areas.
Last week, the Las Vegas Planning Commission, driven by protests from a select group of restaurant owners, proposed changing the distance—from 150 feet to 1,350 feet (the equivalent of roughly four and a half football fields)—that food trucks must be from stationary restaurants.
But should that proposal move forward, who will really lose out? After all, food trucks aren’t just grabbing passersby. Their social media efforts draw packs of hungry locals to areas where they park, and they often feed crowds late into the night after many restaurants have closed.
In Boston, the mayor praised food trucks for enlivening public spaces, and the city has devoted links to food trucks on its website.
Fukunaga, who says he now gets permission from restaurant owners before parking, shares the same belief: “Some people don’t get what brings business, what inspires people and what keeps people in an area. We’re up for the bigger picture. You got to realize this is helping.”