Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When the boba hits the road

In Los Angeles, if you're thirsty and adventurous, you might want to look up The Mighty Boba, a food truck that offers different flavored teas with tapioca pearls. Or if you're hungry, maybe No Tomatoes, named after one customer's habits when he ordered the truck's Indian Cuisine. In Portland, you can try Minizo, a truck that serves a variety of intriguing Japanese dishes, including what looks like a killer shrimp burger. In Austin, how about some Flip Happy Crepes?

In each of those cities, along with other cities across the country, hundreds of food trucks offer consumers wonderfully inventive food, while giving entrepreneurs a way to start a business with a minimum of overhead.

In Charlotte, there's only a sprinkling of choices, thanks in part to a restrictive 2008 food truck ordinance that put dozens of trucks out of business and discouraged others from putting wheels to pavement here.

That ordinance primarily punished taco trucks, which parked near residential neighborhoods in Charlotte. Residents complained about noise, trash, crime and loitering, but instead of working to find a solution that could keep the trucks rolling, the City Council tightened the rules, requiring the trucks to be parked 400 feet away from residential property, and restricting the hours the trucks could work. Other truck owners have complained about restrictive permitting rules.

Now, at the urging of Action NC, the council is reconsidering the ordinance. Action NC, which is hosting a forum tonight on the issue, is proposing an extension of the hours a truck can operate, so that vendors can reach morning workers before 8 and later at night. The group also would like the council to ease restrictions on operating near residential neighborhoods.

The council should be open to tinkering with the ordinance, while respecting that residents don't want to hear a food truck clanking around their neighborhood early in the morning or late at night. One place to start: change the allowed hours of operation, which would permit food trucks to operate more freely in commercial areas such as uptown and nab consumers on their way to work - or the bar crowd at night.

"We should always find room to make sure we don't run people out of business - especially in this economy," said council member Patrick Cannon, who likes the idea of being more welcoming to food trucks that could bring more color and flavor uptown, just as they do in other cities.

So do we. After all, who isn't up for a little boba?

Peter St. Onge, on behalf of the editorial board


Anonymous said...

I like the food trucks and carts you can find in a lot of cities.

One I remember specialized in Chinese fast food. Very reasonably priced and great for a quick meal.

Their food was cooked in a local restaurant and delivered to several carts near a university.

I'm sure the carts were the bulk of their business.

Curtis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curtis said...

Editorial board, I agree the city should be willing to review the 2008 ordinance and find areas to ease some of the restrictions to help small business owners. I've spoken with Hector Vaca and others from LACC/Latin American community and I've heard of the impact. If elected this November, I would be willing to look at this ordinance and find a more balanced approach. Let's help small business owners, not stand in their way.

Curtis Watkins
Candidate, City Council At Large

Wiley Coyote said...

What does "getting with Hector Vaca" have anything to do with it?

If you've ever watched the great food truck race, you see all kinds of food trucks that don't come close to being a roach coach.

Allow more trucks and make them get all of their foods from two or three sources so any issues can be immediately traced.

Curtis Watkins said...

Hi Wiley, I should clarify...Hector Vaca is the Charlotte Director for Action NC, the group that is advocating for council to review the ordinances. And you are right, there are plenty of awesome food trucks out there that bring great value to their customers that aren't "roach coach" at all.

aNON said...

Google Las Vegas food trucks Las Vegas has a monthly food truck festival called Streats uptown with music and great food. Of course in Charlotte all the real restaurant owners paying landlords ridiculous rent cry foul (Raleigh is doing this too) When you are paying $5-$6000 a month for a small restaurant space who wants the competition from these freeriding gypsies. Too bad there are some really creative food trucks especially in Las Vegas