Truck-A-Roo Truck Rally
Sat., June 29th
4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Water and Princess sts parking lot
$10 • www.truck-a-roo.com
We’ve all seen it in major crime dramas, in every Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie, and nearly any sitcom set in a big metropolitan city. I’m talking about the food-truck lunch. Food trucks provide city dwellers with a good, quick and easy on-the-go option for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack. For many Americans, food trucks are a staple of big-city living; they are a sign, of sorts, that a city has entered the realm of a major metropolitan center. And its citizens have supported them.
Last November, Pipeline Events and Wilmington Downtown Inc. held a food truck competition, Truck-a-Roo. Almost 2,000 people turned out in support to help raise awareness of local food trucks operating in the area and crowned a winner of the best fare. Flaming Amy’s Sacred Burrito Bus took top honors.
This Saturday Truck-a-Roo returns, but this time the trucks aren’t competing. They are presenting a united front in hopes to capture our city council’s attention. Since they began rolling out a little over a year ago, food trucks have been struggling with the city in an attempt to amend the current laws to make doing business easier and fairer.
”Food trucks are really new to Wilmington,” James Smith, owner of burger truck The Patty Wagon, explains. “And Wilmington is a little behind the curve in knowing how to handle them.”
To show support for the local food trucks, Truck-a-Roo is holding a rally with Christopher Lee of Pipeline Events in charge. He agrees with Smith that Wilmington was a bit behind in the movement. “[Pipeline got involved after] witnessing local entrepreneurs willing to take the chance and bring this new venture to our market,” Lee says. “We just want clarity on rules and regulations.”
The laws that the food trucks and restaurant owners are hoping to change revolve around where and when a truck is allowed to park and operate. As it stands now, food trucks operate under “temporary special sales” guidelines, which dictate trucks be parked for no more than seven consecutive weekdays or two consecutive weekends at one location, a 45-day gap between sales at one location, and no more than five sales at one location a year. Suh stringent policies make it hard for upcoming mobile restaurateurs to be successful.
Smith first brought the issue to city council in February of this year. After operating his truck in the downtown area for a year, building up a base of loyal customers, the city told Smith he was in violation of city laws. He decided to not give up and instead wrote up a proposal to change the regulations. “I tried a few loopholes first,” Smith admits. “But when those didn’t work, I just had to make this change.”
Since, Smith has been busy working to get the plight of food-truck operators noticed. He admits there was resistance from brick-and-mortar restaurants at first.
“They were just trying to protect their own backyards,” Smith says. “[But, since this debate started,] the media has been trying to pit food trucks and traditional restaurants against each other, but that’s just not the case.”
Smith assures the proposal is the result of both sides “coming together” to find a solution that works for everyone. City council will meet on Tuesday, July 10th at City Hall (102 N. 3rd Street), and the issue will be brought to a vote in August.
“Before this, I knew nothing about city policies,” Smith confesses. “When I first wrote the proposal, it was only about 10 words. I’ve had countless meetings discussing the use of every word in the proposal. [Politics] is a different world than the restaurant business where you only have 20 minutes to make people happy.”
If passed, the proposal will address issues like how long a truck can park in one stop (they are asking for four hours), and how many hours a day a truck can operate (from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m.). Current truck owners and local brick-and-mortar restaurants believe these regulations are fair to both sides.
Jay Muxworthy, owner of the Sacred Burrito Bus and Flaming Amy’s, understands both sides of the spectrum. He runs a brick-and-mortar and a food truck.
“I have no interest in setting up my truck in the same location every day and staying there all day,” Muxworthy assures. “That is not how my food truck is best utilized; that is what my restaurant is for. My food truck is for catering and bringing my food to events and businesses for people that would otherwise not be able to make it into my restaurant at that particular time, not to offer another permanent location.”
“Our market is already well-known for our restaurants,” Lee offers. “Foodies migrate to new options, and love quality [and] variety.”
Presented by Cape Fear Kind Beers and powered by Pipeline Events, the event will be held June 29th in the parking lot of Water and Princess streets. There will be six trucks present at the rally: The Sacred Burrito Bus, Patty Wagon, Catch, Webo’s Down Home Cooking, Poor Piggy’s BBQ, and India Mahal’s Bollywood. Tickets are $10 and include a two-ounce sample from each truck. Folks also can buy from the individual trucks.
The rally will host three local bands, too. The headliner, jam-rock act Groove Fish, will perform from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Alcohol will be available for purchase but is separate from the ticket price. Tickets can be bought online at www.truck-a-roo.com.
Smith and supporters are hoping the rally will help raise awareness and show that food trucks have local support. Lee has been working hard to promote the event around Wilmington and has left locals with no excuse not to go. He assures there will be great bands, good brews and delicious food.
“These aren’t the roach coaches you see at construction sites,” he elaborates. “These guys are chefs; the real deal. It’s free admission for Pete’s sake!”