Food trucks have grown in popularity around the city in recent years, but owners of them still feel changes to the city’s regulations could be beneficial in helping the industry grow.
When Nick Thomas opened his Automatic Taco food truck this year, people were very receptive. “Since I’ve opened my doors in May, I’ve been slammed with business,” Thomas said.
However, most of his revenue comes from private events for business instead of setting up shop downtown. Thomas said he would like city officials to designate a central location downtown for food trucks to operate.
The city’s regulations regarding food trucks “are draconian and very behind the times,” he said.
City ordinance dictates that food trucks cannot operate within 250 feet of brick and mortar restaurants, and the number of public spaces where trucks can park has dropped from several down to one, by Falls Park near Falls Street and East Camperdown Way.
Thomas said Greenville has a growing food scene, but patrons still are hesitant to try unique combinations from food trucks, like his Korean pork belly taco with kimchi slaw. He said he has to almost train customers to try new things.
He said food trucks offer something different from sit-down restaurants and the unexpected for customers. “When I have homemade rhubarb ice from my food truck – people don’t think food trucks can do that.”
Gina Petti, co-owner of Asada with her husband, Roberto Cortez, said the city’s food truck rules are “a work in progress.”
Petti and Cortez started the Asada food truck called Lola with her husband three year ago, and now they also operate a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Wade Hampton Boulevard.
She said when she and Cortez started, food trucks were a relatively new concept in Greenville. Petti said she feels city officials are more open to suggestions now on changes to the regulations than several years ago.
“I think it’s just a different kind of animal,” Petti said. “It’s whole different ambiance.”
One of the changes she would like to see would be to extend the nighttime hours, past 10 p.m., so food trucks could operate downtown after restaurants close.
However, Ron Powell from the city business license office said the police department has said that servicing bar patrons late at night causes disturbances.
Access to downtown foot traffic is limited for food trucks. City officials held a couple of meetings with food truck owners this year, but ThoroughFare Food Truck owner Neil Barley said the conversations haven’t resulted in much change to make the area better for food trucks.
One of the biggest changes he would like to see is a lifting of the restriction barring food trucks from operating within 250 feet of a restaurant. He said the vendors could offer possibly cheaper and faster options to downtown workers going to lunch. “I think competition is good,” he said.
Because of difficulties of operating the central business district, Barley said he relies on partnerships with places like Community Tap and Quest Brewing Co. for business.
If food trucks were given greater access to downtown, he said, they could offer “a different way that the city can be diversified and be attractive to everybody.”