SAFETY HARBOR — Pub crawlers in Safety Harbor will soon have tastier choices when it's time to grab a late-night snack.
City commissioners voted Monday night to allow food trucks to set up outside any business that sells beer and wine but doesn't have a food-preparation kitchen. Beginning at 10 p.m., the truck could operate until 3 a.m., cooking grub for a pub's customers long after most restaurants have shut the doors for the night.
Only one food truck is allowed per establishment, and it must be parked in a rear yard or "other acceptable location," according to the city ordinance.
Officials believe a handful of places in Safety Harbor could take advantage of the new rule, including Nolan's Pub, the 8th Avenue Pub, Trotti's Lounge, and the local American Legion and VFW posts.
The final wording of the law was a compromise. Restaurants in downtown Safety Harbor objected last month when the city considered allowing the food trucks to open earlier, starting at 8 p.m.
The restaurants were worried about more competition in a small market, said interim City Manager Matt McLachlan. That's why the trucks' starting time was pushed back to 10 p.m.
"The limited scope of the ordinance will allow pub establishments without a commercial kitchen to offer a variety of late-night food to patrons to augment their businesses at a time when most nearby eating establishments are closed," McLachlan said.
Restaurants seem to be satisfied with the 10 p.m. compromise, town officials said.
"My email has been quiet," said Commissioner Nancy Besore. "And Facebook has been quiet."
Food trucks will have to obtain an annual permit from the city, which will cost as much as an annual business tax receipt for a brick-and-mortar restaurant with one to 10 tables, McLachlan said.
One downtown resident, Susan Massarsky, voiced a concern Monday night. She attended Safety Harbor's first food truck rally a couple of weekends ago, and she recalled that the trucks were noisy.
"My only concern is those big generators they have on the back," she said. "I don't want to hear that until 3 o'clock in the morning."
Mayor Andy Steingold recalled that a lot of trucks were parked closely together at that rally, and he wasn't sure how much noise one food truck would make.
"If it gets out of hand," he said, "we'll have to readdress it at some point in the future."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Send letters to the editor at tampabay.com/letters.