Midtown Raleigh News

Mexican eateries say trucks come too close

Two East Raleigh Mexican restaurant owners want the city to tighten its restrictions on food trucks as they battle mobile competition.

Raleigh’s rules require food trucks to park at least 100 feet from the nearest brick-and-mortar eatery. But on New Bern Avenue, each Mexican restaurant now has a taco truck routinely parking a little over 100 feet down the street.

“It’s the same food,” said Freddy Garcia, who owns Mar-Y-Sol Restaurant. “It’s the same prices. We think it’s too close to our business.”

Both Garcia and the owners of El Taco Market say they’ve seen sales drop on nights when the taco trucks park a few doors down. They say they’re struggling to compete with the trucks because their costs include rent and utilities, which the mobile vendors can avoid.

The restaurateurs came to the Raleigh City Council on Tuesday to request a ban on food trucks within 1,000 feet of a restaurant.

Council members, who have loosened food truck regulations several times in recent years, said they’re hesitant to change course. A petition drive last fall saw thousands of signatures in favor of even looser restrictions, but so far the city has made no changes.

“My concern is if we increase the distance requirements, we put the food trucks out of business,” Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said.

Councilman Thomas Crowder suggested the regulations might need to address what cuisine the trucks are selling. He sympathized with the concerns from El Taco Market and Mar-Y-Sol.

“Having a food truck that’s selling the same product that you are is the problem,” he said. “I think it would be far less impactful if you’re selling burgers next to a Mexican restaurant. There is an unfair advantage here.”

For now, the council is asking city code enforcers to take a close look at the New Bern Avenue taco trucks to see if they’re breaking any rules. The zoning officials will report their findings in the coming weeks.

“We need to address this specific case,” Baldwin said. “This is really the first complaint that we’ve gotten that’s this specific.”