A dozen college-aged women anxiously conversed on a Friday night. Instead of posing in front of one of downtown Chapel Hill’s landmark eateries, they stood on a gravel patch, ready to be photographed in front of a Carrboro food truck. I accepted to take the picture, wondering when outdoor food vendors were considered as scenic as the Old Well. But the mass of students couldn’t have gotten a foil-wrapped meal near campus, as Chapel Hill currently has laws that severely undercut the profits for these vendors. After a wealth of debate, owners of the mobile food dispensers in town have proficiently voiced their opinions to town council, which is reconsidering the laws that prohibit the sale of food for these distributors that aren’t on public property. While I completely support what entrepreneurs in the area wish to do, more relaxed food truck regulations in Chapel Hill would cause problems for restaurant owners, and hungry residents alike.
Parking downtown on a weekend is not the most enjoyable experience in the world. Especially during or following a sporting event, finding a parking spot can be a nightmare. The current requirement for food trucks to remain on affiliated private property makes sure that these spaces aren’t any scarcer than they could be, but more lenient laws would turn convenience of the vendors into frustration for customers of other establishments. The density of Chapel Hill’s downtown businesses suggests that any more freedom for the vendor’s business would take a toll on pedestrian customers and drivers alike, as various distribution areas for each truck increases the foot and car traffic of such a compact area.
As a less region-specific area, a proliferation of food trucks would put unwarranted burden on brick-and-mortar eateries. Restaurant owners take maintenance of their establishments as seriously as they take their customers, a necessity due to relatively high inspection standards. These examinations are not congruous with other requirements needed for food trucks, and the result is higher payments for restaurants that need to keep a fixed property running. In addition to the stress the trucks put on parking for the public, more relaxed rules would allow trucks to be open for business on parking lots that are partially or entirely paid for and maintained by these restaurants. While the purpose of the food trucks is to provide convenient, cooked meals outdoors, there are many ways in which the vendors can be leeches on the perseverance of Chapel Hill’s restaurant owners.
Despite being innocent in intention, the mobile snack dispensers would supply a number of problems for the downtown area’s parking and business. Because of the great amount of pedestrians and drivers on W. Rosemary, E. Franklin, and the remainder of the downtown area, it’s best to keep the food trucks in the neighboring town and city. While not to discourage both entrepreneurs who wish to enter the food business with these trucks, or the growing recognition of these vendors as a part of the area’s culture, taking the walk to Main Street for the trucks would be appreciated by many.
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