In September, Raleigh's City Council voted to allow food trucks to operate
in downtown neighborhoods. It was a big step forward for a city that's been reluctant to allow food trucks at all, despite residents advocating for them for years.
But instead of moving forward again, last night the council stalled, by voting to delay a pilot program that would allow food trucks to operate on public streets, during lunch hours, in five different locations downtown. That’s one food truck per location per day in areas chosen specifically for their non-abundance of lunch-serving restaurants and bars (like near the DMV building on New Bern Ave.)
The experiment would last a mere six months, and if problems arise, the council can always vote to scrap the ordinance, or tweak it; the people, it seems, mostly want this.
Or, at least, 17 percent of downtown business owners do, according to a survey by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, and so do more than 1,000 people who have signed a petition urging the city to relax its food truck rules. So do food truck owners (obviously) and so do some downtown retailers, like House of Swank
’s John Pugh, who spoke at the meeting.
But despite persuasive arguments for the benefits of food trucks to many of the nation’s cities’ downtowns—jobs, vibrancy, providing food in food deserts, creating fast, affordable and delicious lunch options— the food truck owners and enthusiasts could not convince Councilor Kay Crowder. She’s been the major dissenter on this issue.
Citing concerns about noise from the food trucks’ generators and not having enough input from downtown residents who think downtown is too drunk and noisy already, Crowder helped to persuade the council to hold off on voting on the proposal until February or March. “I feel like we need to reach out and grab a larger section of [downtown], whether that be restaurants, retail, citizens, bar owners, to a larger degree,” she said at the meeting. “I just think that this might be a little bit rushed.”
Crowder may have a point about more study being needed, and there are some definite logistical kinks in the proposal that have to be worked out (say in a January work session, as Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin proposed).
But no one showed up last night to speak out against the food truck pilot program, and it's not really clear who doesn't want them.
By perpetually trying to appease the true minority of residents who think downtown is too rowdy and loud, the council is marginalizing every one else who lives and works downtown because
they crave the kind of energy a food truck scene would create.
"Keep Raleigh boring" is a joke; it wasn't meant as a directive.