Raleigh may ease limits on food trucks

Raleigh is weighing changes to allow trucks in more locations

mgarfield@newsobserver.comJuly 10, 2012 

— Nine months after passing the city’s first food truck policy, Raleigh officials might make it easier for trucks to set up in more spots around town.

The possible easing of rules marks a triumph of sorts for Mike Stenke, owner of the popular Klausie’s Pizza truck and a leader in convincing City Hall to embrace the food truck movement in the first place.

The new policy gained approval last fall after a year of talks.

“The negative perceptions about what food trucks would do really didn’t materialize,” Stenke said. “I was pretty hopeful it would go down this road, and they would see, ‘OK, it’s not such a bad thing.’ ”

Food trucks have become popular on the urban scene – especially among young people whose tastes outpace their budgets.

But the trend has been slow to take hold in Raleigh. Since long-awaited guidelines took effect in October, the city has issued permits to 18 food trucks to set up in a total of 11 locations.

Now, Raleigh officials are considering ways to ease the rules.

Currently, Raleigh only allows food trucks in specific retail zoning districts. A proposed change would allow multiple trucks on a half-acre lot, instead of just one. A City Council public hearing is tentatively planned for October.

The rules can be daunting, said Jessica McCarthy, who plans to debut The Humble Pig as soon as the barbecue-themed food truck gets a permit from the Wake County health department.

The key is finding the right balance with the food-truck policy, McCarthy said.

“If they make it too lax, then everyone and their brother can throw up some cart and call it a food truck,” she said. “It’s a puzzle that everyone is trying to figure out, especially since it’s new here in the South.”

City officials said they have received no food truck-related complaints from businesses or residents. During talks last year, council members questioned whether trucks would bring crowds, litter, traffic and noise into neighborhoods.

The tenor has changed.

“The only complaint I get is that there’s not enough of it,” Councilman Randy Stagner said during a law and public safety committee hearing on the issue.

Durham fosters a vibrant food-truck culture, in part because the city does not have strict rules on hours and location. But officials in Durham are considering new restrictions.

Among other things, trucks would be banned within 100 feet of a restaurant entrance without the restaurant owner’s permission. Second, trucks could be banned around Durham Central Park, including when the Durham Farmers Market meets twice a week.

City Councilman Mike Woodard reassured one constituent in an email that “the intent of the proposed ordinance is not to ‘overregulate’ food trucks.” Rather, the city has received some complaints about street vendors, not just food trucks.

In Raleigh, crowds bustled on Friday night outside the Contemporary Art Museum, where food trucks were parked for the monthly First Friday arts event. People stood in line to order food from Old North State BBQ, Porchetta and Baguetteaboudit, three Triangle trucks.

McCarthy, co-owner of The Humble Pig, hopes to join the lineup soon. She said food trucks could become part of the city’s youthful identity, similar to a trend-setter in the northwest.

“I’d love for (Raleigh) to become more of a Portland-type location,” she said. “I think that would really pump up the whole foodie vibe.”

Staff writer Mark Schultz contributed to this report.

Garfield: 919-836-4952

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service