Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

St. Petersburg reconsiders food trucks after restaurants share fears

ST. PETERSBURG — Just as food trucks seemed likely to roll in, several restaurateurs have begun to wonder whether this town is big enough for the both of them.

Voicing restaurant owners' misgivings, the Chamber of Commerce has joined the fray as the city enters the final weeks of debate.

"There's a lot of concern, and justifiably so," said City Council member Jeff Danner. "We have to be mindful of what they're saying. Food trucks just don't have that big, long-term brick and mortar investment that restaurants do."

It's an unforeseen speed bump in the road to bringing the trucks to St. Petersburg — a push that began nearly three months ago.

The city is poised to review several options for food trucks in the downtown area, with a vote expected in February. Among them: allowing food trucks to operate in vacant lots in and around downtown; encouraging food trucks to collaborate with private businesses; granting food trucks access to areas near the Pier or along Beach Drive.

Implementing any one of these could make St. Petersburg among the most food truck-friendly cities in Florida.

But after hearing restaurateurs' concerns, city officials said they might just leave things the way they are.

That means food trucks would remain virtually banned from serving their gourmet cuisine to pedestrians outside a special event setting.

And that would be just fine with Charles Marco, owner of Fortunato's pizzeria at 259 Central Avenue.

"I don't want them here at all," Marco said. "Everybody is for free trade and all that, but our concern is fair trade."

Marco, who has owned the pizzeria for seven years, said the economy has made owning a restaurant more difficult. And, he said, competition is already a fact of life in the business, with a new wood-fired pizza restaurant opening up just blocks away.

Food trucks' mobility and exemption from many local fees and property taxes give them an unfair advantage, said Marco, who worries trucks would encroach on the two hours window when he does the most business: lunch.

"They're going to come into an already saturated market, syphon off some of that business and leave," he said. "And they're done; they just made a ton of money for a couple of hours of work. If that's how it goes, I might look into getting a food truck myself."

In other cities, food trucks and restaurants have not coexisted peacefully.

Over the summer in New York, tensions neared a fever pitch when mobile vendors began to pull up right outside restaurants and sell similar food for less money. City legislators stepped in, attempting to regulate where food trucks could go.

St. Petersburg restaurateur Steve Westphal, who owns the Parkshore Grill and the Hangar among others, said there is room for compromise as long as trucks are regulated from the start.

His main concerns, he said, are how many trucks would be allowed downtown, where they could go and how frequently they could come.

"We don't want businesses to cannibalize each other in this town," he said.

But blogger and food truck advocate Todd Sturtz said that fear is misguided.

"If a family wants to go out to dinner and sit down and have a table service, they're not going to go to food trucks, he said. "And if someone says, 'I want pizza,' and sees a Korean food truck next to a pizzeria, they're going walk by it and still get pizza."

Sturtz, who reviews restaurants and organizes food truck rallies, said opening St. Petersburg to food trucks would allow both businesses to flourish.

"Without question, food trucks draw people to an area," he said. "They're organic and interactive and they have a following. Restaurants can take advantage of that to gain exposure — it's like free advertising."

Contact Marissa Lang at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.

Comments
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Updated: 4 hours 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 discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Updated: 4 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
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Updated: 5 hours ago
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: 5 hours 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: 5 hours 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 hours ago