City To Research Vendor Impact

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Two local restaurant owners addressed the Mountain View City Council at last week’s meeting regarding food trucks and other mobile food vendors.

April Stevens of Krispy House asked council members to keep the current ordinance in place and to not allow food trucks to set up in Mountain View.

She said allowing food trucks would be detrimental to the area, noting that local restaurant owners pay sales tax and give back to the community. She explained they also buy locally and employee paychecks are spent locally. She said food trucks that are not local just take and leave, “leaving a poorer city.”

She believes saturating the market would harm the Skillet Restaurant and Ozark Folk Center, killing tourism and leaving Mountain View a ghost town with no tourists.

She recommended the city consult an economic expert to evaluate what the economic effects would be.

The current food vendor ordinance adopted in 1990 allows food vendors only in designated spots on the north side of the courtsquare. Food vendors must have a contract with the chamber and the contract used must be approved by the council. The chamber uses fees received from vendor registration to promote Mountain View.

Councilman Finis Brewer said he had requested and received information from the municipal league stating a city can designate a certain area for food trucks but cannot discourage commerce by stating who can or cannot set up.

Dwight Johnson, former owner of the Krispy House and a relative of the current owners, said the north side of the square has the facilities available for food trucks. He asked how sanitation would be handled for food trucks elsewhere in the city and said it could be a health issue.
Brewer said the food truck court proposed at the previous meeting included all utilities.

Councilman J.K. Williams said food trucks have to meet county, city, federal, and health department standards at a minimum. He said it would be hard to limit what people can do on their property if they meet all the requirements, including planning and zoning rules.

Councilman Dana Woods commented that food trucks are required to receive a department of health certificate.
Councilman Ricky Shuttleworth said he didn’t want to see other restaurants shut down because of allowing food trucks.

Michael Diana, owner of Subway, stated his business helps the community whenever possible, adding that he doesn’t mind local competition, but he is not in favor of allowing out-of-state food trucks to come in, take from the area and leave.

“It’s going to hurt,” he said.

If food trucks take 15 percent of sales, “there goes three employees,” he said. He explained he was excited about Marie’s reopening, but was not in favor of food trucks coming in to “take, take, take.”

Renea Turner Luster, who proposed a food truck court at the previous meeting, said plans were to have a mobile kitchen permanently attached to the back of the current Marie’s building. She said it was going to cost $75,000 to refurbish the building, and having a couple permanent food trucks connected to utilities in the back would help pay expenses. She said they would contract with food truck owners to have them remain at the location long-term.

Woods said competition is good for the consumer and he said he doesn’t see Mountain View “drying up” if food trucks are approved.

Councilman Truman Bullard commented, “if we’re not real careful we’ll lose control.”

Mayor Roger Gardner said it’s “all or nothing, or a designated spot.”

He reminded attendees that the north side of the square is open for food trucks, with certain regulations, and there currently are no food trucks there.

Gary Stewart, owner of Shorty’s BBQ food truck, said he was more of a threat when he was a restaurant. He said he continues to pay sales tax, and has the same health department inspections as a restaurant. He pointed out that the city doesn’t regulate restaurants and sandwich shops open and close every two or three months on the square and take their income back with them.

Luster asked if they could continue with their plans to permanently attach a mobile kitchen to the existing Marie’s building. Council members said they were pretty sure that was okay under planning and zoning regulations, but she should still discuss the matter with the planning and zoning officer.

The council tabled further discussion and officials plan to gather more information from cities of similar size and the impact food trucks have had on them.

See  the full story in the June 30 issue.

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