The Pit, Greg Hatem and the fate of food trucks | Durham County | Indy Week

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The Pit, Greg Hatem and the fate of food trucks

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Food trucks, and what the future is for them on Rigsbee Street in North-Central Durham, Greg Hatem isn't sure.

Earlier this month, Hatem's Raleigh-based development company, Empire Properties, announced its purchase of the old 7Up bottling plant on the corner of Rigsbee and Geer streets, property that includes Fullsteam brewery.

The plan is to convert part of the building into restaurant space, he says, for a second location of the popular Raleigh barbecue joint The Pit. Through Empire, Hatem owns several restaurants in downtown Raleigh, including Sitti and the Raleigh Times.

What that means for the food trucks that often park in front of Fullsteam remains an open question. On any given evening, patrons of Fullsteam, Motorco Music Hall and other neighborhood bars can balance out their alcohol intake with pizza, Asian-style dumplings and other street food.

Hatem says his company isn't concerned about food trucks. "I know it's what everyone is worried about, but right now we're focusing on how to improve on the original Pit," he says. "We don't view them [food trucks] as competition."

Food truck regulations in Durham are relaxed compared with other Triangle cities. But Durham officials have recently indicated they want to tighten certain regulations on where mobile vendors can operate.

Controversy erupted last month when the city announced proposed changes to the Mobile Vending Provision. Among the more controversial amendments was a proposal that would have barred food truck operators from parking on public property in Durham Central Park during special events. Another proposed change would exempt vendors who park on private property for less than four hours from obtaining a temporary-use permit from the city.

Grace Smith, Durham City-County Planning Supervisor, says the proposals are still under review and should be finalized for the city council's consideration by fall.

Fullsteam owner Sean Lilly Wilson says that the brewery has an informal agreements with the mobile food vendors. However, as the property owner, Tatem could change that policy. But it may be too early for speculation, Wilson says.

"As far as them wanting to, I just don't know right now," Wilson says. "The Pit is coming here for a reason. They are coming here because they like this neighborhood, so I can't see why they would want to change it. In the end, I'm sure we'll all find a way to balance the needs of restaurants and food trucks."

Hatem says the new Pit is scheduled to open next summer.

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