Chapel Hill food truck rules could change

tgrubb@newsobserver.comNovember 20, 2012 

— Ten months after enacting them, the Town Council is considering changing its food-truck rules to encourage more vendors to set up shop.

The town has issued just two food-vendor permits and two property-owner permits since Jan. 30. All four were for Baguettaboutit to operate food trucks on East Rosemary and West Franklin streets

Four events also operated this year under special event or accessory-use permits:

• WCHL’s celebration at Vil-Com

• Super Cooper Fund Raiser at Southern Village

• Smith Middle School Food Truck Run for Fun

• Southern Village 5K Run

The food-truck rules were aimed at preventing unfair competition with restaurants, nuisances and safety hazards. However, permit costs and limited locations have discouraged operators from applying.

Before opening, vendors must pay nearly $750 for a business license, vendor permit and Health Department inspection. Property owners pay $118 for their permit allowing the trucks to operate.

The fees are just too high for a start-up, American Meltdown co-owner Paul Inserra said. Even though he does some business on the UNC campus, it’s cheaper for his trucks to operate in Raleigh and Durham than Chapel Hill, he said.

Town Manager Roger Stancil said the fee was set to cover the town’s expenses, including the cost of hiring a part-time inspector.

But those fees might be set so high they’re not making enough to pay for an inspector anyway, council member Matt Czajkowski said. He suggested looking at Carrboro’s rules, which appear to be working.

Council member Donna Bell also suggested considering different business models when thinking about how to regulate and establish fees for food trucks.

Only Burger owner Brian Bottger said his business caters to events and locations, such as office parks. They only go where they’re invited and where there are a lot of people, he said.

“If somebody is going to a restaurant, they’re going to a restaurant,” he said. “They’re not going to stop off at my food truck on their way to a restaurant, where they can sit down and have heat and climate-controlled air-conditioning and a wine list.”

Council member Ed Harrison suggested allowing more locations, particularly in suburban parts of town.

Town staff will bring the council suggested changes in a few months.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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