City officials in Escondido, CA are taking a second look at the food truck phenomenon and are asking the public for feedback in a scheduled forum. Currently, although food trucks are flourishing in cities surrounding Escondido, the mobile gourmets are banned from operation in the city. Officials are considering lifting the ban, however they’re concerned that lifting the ban could harm some local bricks and mortar restaurants. Surprised?
Despite the huge success of food trucks in neighboring Del Mar, the city received enough complaints to place a 45-day moratorium on the trucks this month, and this has raised concern in Escondido regarding lifting their ban. City officials claim that they want to weigh their desire to embrace popular trends against legitimate public concerns.
According to North County Times, food trucks are criticized for not providing restrooms, creating traffic problems and noise, and for how they handle trash. Though NC Times didn’t mention the organization by name, it indicates that due to threats of law suits by the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, the City of Escondido cannot focus its attention on concerns of competition in order to protect those bricks and mortar restaurant owners who feel their business could be harmed by food trucks.
“We’re trying to stay current with new trends, but we’re trying to tiptoe into it,” said city spokeswoman Joyce Masterson. “We want to hear what people have to say.”
Apparently, city officials may not all be on the same page in Escondido. Mayor Sam Abed said he’s open to allowing food trucks at special events, such as festivals in Grape Day Park, street fairs and Chamber of Commerce mixers. But he said loosening the rules any further than that could damage local restaurants.
“Our goal is not to have food trucks driving through our town every day,” Abed said this week. “We believe in competition, but we don’t want to hurt our restaurants when they’re still struggling in a bad economy.”
Ironically, in every city where food trucks are debated, restaurant owners blame other businesses and competition for their own shortcomings. Vinnie Griffin, the owner of Vinz Wine Bar blames the local farmers market for his declining business, claiming that his bar is a virtual ghost town on Tuesdays during the farmers market, when it had previously been the busiest day of the week. He suggests that because more food options exist at the farmers market, fewer people are interested in his establishment.
It doesn’t stop at the farmers market for Griffin, though. In fact, he openly opposes food trucks operating during major spring and summer weekly car shows, because his and other restaurants rely on the events for the majority of their revenue.
If city officials raise the ban on food trucks, Griffin points out he’d like to see the City of Escondido “hand-pick food trucks” that would be allowed to operate in the city based on their reputations as upstanding restaurants, and they should not be allowed to serve sushi or Mexican food. In other words, only food trucks that are actually restaurants (probably zero) should be allowed to operate on the streets of Escondido, only in certain areas, and not at events where restaurants depend on revenue.
Councilwoman Olga Diaz, may be the only city official with cognitive skills, ignoring Griffin’s ramblings. “Restaurant owners will always be threatened by food trucks, but if they have a good product, they will still do well,” she said. “We’ve got to keep up with the region and the trends. Our slogan on the council is, ‘We’re open for business’”