MOBILE, AL – “Food Truck Friday” is no more — at least for now.
The frequently promoted event was launched last December in an effort to generate interest in the city’s downtown. But some restaurant owners have begun to raise issues over competition and what amounts to a city-sponsored program.
In recent months, mobile food vendors like Paul Larson, the owner of Von’s Food Truck, received a direct communique from Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Office, asking him and others to come on out for the event.
Around mid-day, they would line the area surrounding Bienville Square, in the heart of the heavily-trafficked business district. Some restaurant owners say it cuts into their clientele when they’ve made a permanent investment downtown, fostering tension over the monthly affair.
Larson, 29, who also owns and operates Von’s Restaurant & Grill in Bayou La Batre, is one of a growing number of truck owners interested in finding some middle ground.
“If it’s hurting the restaurants and they feel like it’s putting them out of business over two hours a month, then maybe we should talk about it,” Larson said. “I just thought maybe it would become an attraction for people who don’t come down there.”
Balancing how to regulate mobile food vendors has been rocky terrain in local government for the last decade or so, as the food trucks moved from hot trend to urban fixture. Creating an uneven playing field is frequently an area for concern. Colby Cooper, the mayor’s chief of staff, said there is no definitive date when the event will come back, but that they must first address both sides of the issue.
He said they plan to roll out dual activities instead — one that promotes restaurants in addition to the food truck event. The idea, Cooper said, has been to encourage downtown’s “concentration of employees during business days” to eat out. A concept already welcomed in several cities, food trucks was one of the options.
“Whether its brick-and-mortars or food trucks, we should be able to afford it to the entire city,” Cooper said. “We need to be able to roll this out… (together) because it’s important that we take into consideration the points that the brick-and-mortar restaurants have raised.”