Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Food truck battle far from over in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — The city's battle over food trucks rages on.

As city leaders contemplate changing rules to allow food trucks to operate downtown, the city's eight council members could reach no consensus Thursday on how to deal with one of the nation's hottest food crazes.

"We need more information," council member Bill Dudley said. "I don't think anyone is against food trucks. I just think we need to make sure it's done right."

"Downtown is thriving with the brick and mortar restaurants as we have them," said council member Jim Kennedy. "I don't see how food trucks contribute at all."

"We want to make sure we're fair to both sides," said council Chairwoman Leslie Curran. "We don't want our message to be, 'If you're unwilling to invest in brick and mortar you can forget it.' "

While the mobile food phenomenon has taken off around the Tampa Bay area, food trucks are virtually barred from serving pedestrians in downtown St. Petersburg unless it's a special event.

At Thursday's committee meeting, city staffers outlined several options the council could consider to regulate food trucks.

The city could allow food trucks to operate downtown in the right of way; limit food trucks to parking alongside city parks; grant property owners the ability to allow trucks on their lots or in front of their businesses; or keep the current ban intact.

Several council members expressed an interest in regulating food trucks by setting strict hours of operation, mandating permits and restricting how close vendors could be to restaurants or city-sponsored events.

The question of fairness came up several times.

On one side, was the question of what's fair to restaurants.

Kennedy echoed the view of many restaurateurs, saying food trucks are at an advantage due to their mobility and exemption from certain fees, such as property taxes. Competition among restaurants already is fierce, restaurant owners say.

On the other side, several food truck owners and advocates said few of the city's recommendations seemed fair to them.

"If they really wanted to level the playing field," said Sam Dudding, of the Fire Monkey food truck, "they would have to take away the roof, the walls, the tables, the chairs, the servers, the bathrooms, any kind of climate control and the alcohol from all of the restaurants."

Dudley warned that the city won't be seeking to perfectly balance the needs of food trucks and restaurants. Property taxpayers will have the advantage, he said. The question will be: How much of an advantage?

"It won't be equal," Dudley said. "We need to make sure the (restaurants) are not suffering."

Neither side was allowed to plead its case during Thursday's committee meeting, but affected parties will be allowed to speak at a March 22 workshop on the issue.

Food truck and pushcart vendors recently formed their own group, the Tampa Bay Mobile Food Vending Alliance, with the goal of helping the city understand how they contribute to the community.

"No one can afford to have food shipped in, so we all buy local," said truck owner Mark Thompson. "It takes a community of support for a local food truck to survive."

Representatives from the Institute for Justice, a self-described "libertarian public-interest law firm" that has taken on the fight for mobile vendors around the country, plan to attend the workshop.

For the law firm, the issue is not of fairness, but of legality.

"Making a balanced and fair playing field for businesses is not a function of government," said attorney Claudia Murray. "You can't tell a Burger King that it can't set up next to a McDonald's, just like you can't tell a food truck they can't set up in front of a restaurant."

Marissa Lang can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.

Comments
Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

ST. PETERSBURG — The key to SS Willy Adames rapping two of the biggest hits in the Rays' 4-0 win Saturday actually took place the night before.An RBI single that snapped an 0-for-12 and a second hit two winnings later in Friday's game restored ...
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

INF Daniel Robertson has only played two games after a short DL stint, but it seems like he has already made a half dozen great plays. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers get the attention, but Robertson has the skills to steal the show any night.It is obvi...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
At St. Pete Pride, attendees find community, acceptance

At St. Pete Pride, attendees find community, acceptance

ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Gardner was never ashamed of being gay. He just didn’t broadcast it.He was never one to embrace or hold hands with his significant other in public. But over time — and with the support he’s found at St. Pete Pride — that’s chan...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and unresolved discrepancies to the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that led to him facing a three-game suspension to start the upcoming season.The Bucs won't commen...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Bay Tech wins Battle of the Bay 7-on-7 tournament

Tampa Bay Tech wins Battle of the Bay 7-on-7 tournament

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Tech lost some significant players from an offense that averaged more than 40 points per game last season.The biggest departures were in the passing game. Mike Penix, the Tampa Bay Times' all-Tampa Bay offensive player of the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Authorities find

Authorities find "inmate" who walked away from Bilirakis event

The 23-year-old man who authorities said walked away from a New Port Richey political event while under supervision of a treatment center on Saturday has been located.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office described Nicholas Moore, 23, as both an "inmate"...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays team up to beat Yankees again, 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again, 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG – A strong start by Wilmer Font, a team effort by the bullpen and big hits by rookie infielders Willy Adames and Jake Bauers led the Rays to a second straight win over the Yankees on Saturday, 4-0.In what was supposed to be anoth...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 4 hours ago