City lifts controversial ban on mobile kitchens in 2nd vote

ASHEVILLE, NC — A long-simmering and passionate debate pitting restaurant owners, downtown advocates and food truck owners against one another has ended.

The City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to allow food trucks downtown, overturning a more than 20-year ban on the mobile kitchens (

Voting yes were Vice Mayor Brownie Newman and council members Cecil Bothwell, Esther Manheimer, Bill Russell and Gordon Smith. Mayor Terry Bellamy and Councilman Jan Davis opposed the measure. Bothwell, who voted no on a similar Aug. 23 measure, had said he would change his vote if permit costs were addressed.

The second vote Tuesday was needed because the 4-3 majority last month was not a big enough margin to change a city ordinance in one vote.

Advocates say allowing the new form of street food will help small entrepreneurs in a tough economy and add to the city’s burgeoning culinary scene. Smith said the trucks, which now serve everything from tacos to falafel in areas around downtown, would improve the “foodtopia” image cultivated by restaurateurs.

“It’s going to add to affordability and continue to broaden the choices that people have here,” said the councilman.

Opponents said the trucks are taking advantage of a downtown that was revitalized in large part by risk-taking entrepreneurs who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes and on whose back much of downtown’s future rests.

Davis has said some longtime restaurants are barely hanging on. He supported a failed amendment to reduce the number of trucks allowed from 10 to five, saying it would help protect not only stand-alone eateries but truck owners, as well, from becoming overextended.

“I think there is no knowledge of what the economy is going to do,” he said.

Carts that don’t cook food, such as hot dog stands, have been allowed downtown. But food trucks have been kept out. Truck owners started trying to change that almost a year ago, working their way up from the city’s Downtown Commission. Along the way, passions rose, and boisterous arguments spilled from the street into City Hall.

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