Councilman Levon Manzie said he wants to assign a committee to discuss regulations for food trucks downtown.
The regulations are meant to help provide a “level playing field” for owners of brick-and-mortar eateries in the district he represents, Manzie told council colleagues.
“These people have invested too much money to have food trucks park outside,” Manzie said of restaurant owners. “It’s unfair and we need to find a way to regulate it.”
Manzie said the trucks take away profits from restaurants that have been downtown since it was a “ghost town.”
Manzie has also heard complaints about food truck customers using tables and chairs placed on the sidewalk by business owners. However, Councilman John Williams said anything placed in the right-of-way is for “public use.”
David Rasp, owner of Heroes Sports Bar and Grille, said he favors more regulations to protect the investments of brick-and-mortar restaurateurs.
“I do think it’s a legitimate concern,” Rasp said. “People are operating food trucks in close proximity while a brick-and-mortar place is open and operating.”
Rasp said one particular truck comes from Fairhope and parks near Hayley’s bar on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The operators of the truck don’t serve food from the truck, but instead serve it from Cathedral Square within feet of his business.
Food trucks don’t have the overhead and staffing issues traditional restaurants do, Rasp argued, adding there is a “real place” for them, but just not “at the doorstep of a brick-and-mortar” restaurant.
Manzie mentioned trucks from Baldwin County as a particular problem.
Krissy Moore, general manager at Spot of Tea, said the same truck Rasp had concerns about has been a problem for her restaurant as well. She said the eatery has had similar issues in the past.
“They do need to have a designated area,” she said. “I love food trucks and good, healthy competition, but they shouldn’t be allowed to park directly in front of businesses.”
Food trucks downtown have been a point of contention for years in Mobile. Mayor Sandy Stimpson promoted a special “Food Truck Friday” at Bienville Square in 2015 until restaurant owners became upset.
The issue has only been tentatively addressed through developers’ and owners’ own workings. The Hilton Garden Inn near Bienville Square was constructed in 2017 and included a food truck court in the back. Serda Brewing between Government and Conti also has space for food trucks, but the city has stayed largely quiet about the issue since 2015.
Manzie would like to at least discuss the issue with colleagues while also giving the public an opportunity to weigh in. A date and time for the committee meeting has not yet been assigned.
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