PROVO -- Laws already on the books make it so mobile food vendors can't park on Center Street and University Avenue. However, Provo restaurant owners would like food trucks to keep their distance and stay in other less-competitive locations.
That doesn't mean the public feels the same way. At least 68 percent of respondents surveyed by the city say they like having the trucks available. The food trucks believe when it comes to special events like the Rooftop Concert series, there should be a spot for them.
At Tuesday's Municipal Council work session, council members discussed these topics and possible changes to a city ordinance that would regulate food trucks, where they could park and other safety factors.
Amendments to the code could enlarge the radius area in which a food truck can park from the front door of a brick-and-mortar restaurant from 100 feet to a suggested 200 feet. With 56 restaurants in downtown, those circles could put them right out of the downtown business hub.
On March 4, the council asked city staff to find out what residents think. A total of 807 responded to a city online survey and through the city newsletter. Sixty-six percent said they visit a mobile food business at least once a month, while 68 percent said they would like to see more trucks. That same percentage would be more likely to visit downtown if there were more trucks there. Seventy-one percent said they would like to see the trucks at city parks.
While it was a very positive result from the food trucks' point of view, Dean Judd, a board member of the Downtown Restaurant Association, said he thought the survey was one-sided.
"Food trucks are mobile for a reason," Judd said. "They are designed to go where restaurants are. They should target other locations. Residents don't know what owners go through to stay open. They shouldn't be allowed in downtown Provo.
"I think food trucks are fun and cool, and I think they've done a great job with the roundup. They can go a million places for a roundup. They should put their efforts there."
Other concerns include background checks, child safety, food-handler permits and licensing.
Provo has had a very successful Thursday Food Truck Roundup at 600 South and 100 West. The SCERA in Orem has started a truck roundup, as has Spanish Fork. The events continue to be popular and are growing in participation in the number of trucks and customers.
Provo Mayor John Curtis asked Judd what the impact of the roundup has been on downtown restaurants.
"I haven't seen any change. They are far enough away," Judd said.
But when it comes to special events like the Rooftop Concert series, that's different.
"The Rooftop Concert Series was created by us in downtown; the food trucks should not be allowed at the event," Judd said. "Downtown restaurant sales always go up on Rooftop Concert night."
Christian Faulconer of the Mobile Food Vendors Association said, "One thing that is really clear from the conversation is you're talking about setting a city-wide policy that is potentially for just downtown. I don't see restaurant owners from anywhere but downtown here. Food trucks are not trying to poach downtown.
"Our discussions are hampered by this ordinance."
Faulconer said the truck association has gone to great lengths to self-police. He also said the roundup has helped grow businesses.
"We do four times the amount of business than a normal night's business," Faulconer said. "We can park in places that are underserved by restaurants."
"The city has compared ourselves to Salt Lake City and to Boulder, Colorado, but Provo is just different," said Councilwoman Kim Santiago. "We really don't have any good data for downtown Provo."
She proposed there be two meetings with all of the players within the next two weeks before bringing the ordinance back to the work and council session July 15. If passed, the ordinance might also have a trial period of up to six months to see how the brick-and-mortar and mobile eateries are working together.
"Let's give it a trial run and see what happens when the food trucks come in," Santiago said. "Keep good data and see if there is synergy here or winners and losers.
"I actually think it could work if we get everybody together; all seem amiable to it."
After more council discussion, the motion passed. The council is now hoping the two meetings will help craft an ordinance on which all parties can agree.