Lexington Food Truck Debate Goes On

May 6, 2013

By early summer, an increased number of food trucks could be noticeable in downtown Lexington.  But, their impact on the food scene remains uncertain.  After much wrangling, a panel created by the city last week made recommendations.  For the first time, they would allow food trucks in some metered parking spots during dayight.  After ten p-m until three in the morning, the vendors could set up shop in any downtown, public metered area.  There are other restrictions.  The food trucks couldn’t operate within 100 feet of a residential area, and could occupy not more than half of the available metered spots.

  As Sean Tibbetts of the Bluegrass Food Truck Association Director sees it, this proposal is a step backwards for food truck operators.

“It’s really been forced on us by the restaurant community here in town.  There are some serious issues with it that are really difficult to operate a profitable business, primarily the first one is we have to have permission from every open business within a hundred feet whether we’re operating on private or public property,” said Tibbetts.

Tibbetts says many of the specialty food truck operators are not interested in late night hours.  In fact, he prefers the current restrictions. 

Some restaurant owners worry food trucks would enjoy an unfair advantage over traditional, brick-and-mortar establishments.  Gene Williams of Natasha’s claims the food business is already 50 percent overbuilt in downtown Lexington.

“We have too many restaurants, too many tables, too many chairs for the number of people who are currently eating.  There’s been a renaissance in restaurant romance in downtown Lexington, which is good in the long run because it fascinates and makes the brand start to develop but while we’re waiting for the brand to develop, all the restaurants are hurting.  It’s a fragile business,” said Williams.

Williams says restaurant owners believe it's not the right time for food trucks. He says the food truck pilot plan must still be approved by the Parking Authority Board and Lexington's city council.  Council member Shevawn Akers chaired the food truck work panel that developed these recommendations.

“So it is very limiting.  I think it is quite prohibitive, however it is a first step towards trying it out and giving the community a chance to see how this goes.  Let the restaurants see how it goes, how it affects them,” added Akers.

If enacted, the designated zones for daytime food trucks are along portions of west main street, Vine, High, Mill, Limestone, and Elm Tree Lane.  Akers says a final Council vote could occur in late May or early June.  If passed, the pilot program would be reviewed in six months.