Smithfield Herald

Clayton might allow food trucks

Food trucks have become a Friday fixture at Deep River Brewing Co., serving tacos, macaroni and cheese and other fare to hungry beer drinkers.

But the food trucks that visit the Main Street brewery are also violating a town ordinance that essentially bans food trucks from operating in Clayton.

“The food trucks that frequent Deep River (are) not in compliance with the current regulations,” Town Manager Steve Biggs said in an email.

But those food trucks could soon be legal in Clayton. The town council on Monday reviewed a proposed ordinance that would allow food trucks with certain restrictions.

Biggs said the arrival of food trucks at Deep River prompted the town to revisit its ban.

“We were reluctant to take definitive action against them until the ordinance could be examined and given consideration for change,” he added.

Town planner David DeYoung echoed Biggs. “They’ve become very popular,” he said of food trucks, “and we felt it was the appropriate time” to make room for them.

Lynn Auclair, who owns Deep River with her husband Paul, said the food trucks bring a lot of people to the brewery. “People stay longer when there are food trucks because they don’t have to leave for dinner,” she said.

The brewery has also introduced food trucks to Clayton, giving locals chance to experience the concept, which has taken off across the country.

The proposed ordinance would allow food trucks but limit their number to no more than two per location. It would also require food trucks to obtain approval from the county’s Division of Environmental Health. That’s the county department that inspects restaurants and issues sanitation grades.

Also under the ordinance:

• Food trucks could not operate between midnight and 7 a.m.

• Trucks would have to park at least 400 feet away from the entrance to a brick-and-mortar restaurant unless the restaurant does not object.

• Food trucks open after dark would have to provide lighting.

• Trucks could not operate as a drive-thru.

• Trucks could no have signage other than what’s on the vehicle, plus an easel sign of no more than 12 square feet. That easel sign would have to be within the customer waiting area.

Councilman Butch Lawter asked DeYoung if the two-truck limit was too restrictive.

DeYoung said he didn’t think so. “We thought it sounded like a fair amount of food trucks,” he said. “They could do more, like a food truck rodeo, if they have a special use permit.”

The two-truck limit would not apply to events like the Harvest Festival, whose sponsors obtain permits that allow multiple vendors.

The town council will likely vote on the ordinance at its next meeting. If the council says no, the the food trucks at Deep River would have to jump through an expensive regulatory hoop to continue coming to Clayton.

“If the proposal fails, we will have to notify those vendors that they can no longer operate without getting a temporary business permit, a more complicated and costly process,” Biggs said.