Food Truck Decision at a Standstill

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A new ordinance regulating food trucks is at a standstill after Raleigh City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee decided Tuesday that more research is necessary before bringing the topic back to the full council.

Food truck regulations have been discussed by City Council and the Planning Commission for the past several months. The rules will govern where food trucks can set up shop and when they can operate.

With more questions raised by council members about enforcement and proximity to restaurants and residential homes, Committee Chair Mary-Ann Baldwin asked city staff to provide the group with an assessment.

The report will include who would be responsible for enforcing the law, during what hours and what kind of collaboration would be needed between the inspections and police departments.

Baldwin asked that the report also include the effect of allowing food trucks 100 feet from a restaurant property line versus 150 away from the front door, or 150 feet from a residential property line, including single and multifamily homes in the downtown area.

The results could determine if the proximity restrictions would inadvertently ban food trucks from operating downtown.

The report will be presented at the next committee meeting Aug. 30.

Baldwin also suggested a number of recommendations, including the creation of an operating manual, increasing the permit fees from $76 to $150 and a review of the ordinance six months after implementation.

Restaurant owners and food truck operators have requested equal provisions. Councilor John Odom explained there were far too many differences within the industries to make it equal.

“We’re never going to have a level playing field,” he said.

While noise coming from food truck customers was discussed at length, Councilor Eugene Weeks said that one of his chief concerns, emissions, wasn’t even discussed at the meeting.

“We don’t need to rush into it,” Weeks said of the ordinance.

The standstill came as a blow to food truck operators who were hoping for some sort of movement on the ordinance so they could begin or continue working.

Jesus Garcia, owner of Tacos el Corral, said that his Dunn-based family business was operating out of two Raleigh gas stations. One of those trucks is a franchisee who hasn’t been able to work.

“That’s $1,500 a month that’s not coming into my family for the past six months,” Garcia said.

“We have a constitutional right to work,” said Mike Stenke, owner and operator of Klausie’s Pizza Truck.

Stenke said he finds it unfair to restrict food trucks to 150 feet away from a restaurant and on private property, while push carts have a restriction of 50 feet and can work on public property. He also pointed out that restaurants have the ability to open up next to each other, but food trucks are going to be restricted to at least 100 feet.

Food Truck Owner Claims Police Harassment

Stenke and his food truck were the focus of a complaint made by an anonymous 911 call while he attended the City Council meeting on July 19. Stenke was at the council meeting to listen to debate about potential new food truck regulations.

Listen to the 911 call. (wav)

The caller complained that Stenke’s truck was illegally parked in a metered spot the wrong way in front of City Hall on West Hargett Street.

Stenke said he was approached by a Raleigh police officer who questioned his parking and asked to see his business license.

“This was blatant intimidation,” Stenke said.

No official charges were filed against Stenke because he was in the process of moving his truck when the officer arrived at the scene, according to a police department spokesman.

13 thoughts on “Food Truck Decision at a Standstill

  1. I support the food trucks but I take exception with Mr. Stenke’s claim of police “intimidation”. While I find it appalling somebody would report his parked truck to the police (and was it really necessary to call 911?) as silly as that is don’t the police have a responsibility to respond to citizen complaints. Wasn’t the cop just doing his job? It’s not like he went out and targeted Mr. Stenke.

    Mr. Stenke is correct in that restaurants are allowed to open up right next to each other. If he wants to put up the money he can open his own place downtown right next to Bada Bing Pizza. But since he has instead chosen to operate a mobile truck that will utilize free space I see no problem with putting a distance requirement in place. Letting him park in front of other restaurants for free is like letting a competing newspaper sell their publication out of the N&O boxes located throughout downtown without having to pay for their own.

    Concerns about generators impacting the environment are a red herring. But concerns over the noise are legit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be sitting outside of the Raleigh Times on the sidewalk and have to listen to the hum of a generator for an hour.

    I’m glad the council is looking to make sure the ordinance does not prevent food truck rodeos.

  2. The intimidation I was referring to wasn’t that the officer was responding to a parking violation 911 call, it was the way he responded. I was standing next to my truck when the officer pulled in across several parking spaces and stopped within a couple of ft of me and the side of my truck. I said Hi to him, and he gets out and says I have 3 problems. 1. my truck is sticking out too far into the street (didn’t ask if I could pull it in further, which I think I could.) 2. Asked if I paid my meter (I said I did, but it might be expiring, with which he responded that I now had 4 problems) 3. Did I have a business license.

    The police should have sent the parking enforcement to chk this out. Instead they sent an officer that didn’t just pull up next to me to inform me that my truck stuck out too far. He pulled in aggressively and proceeded to tell me I had problems, including a business license. And, he also told me people from the City were yelling to get my truck out of there.

    he was sent to get me to leave when I had been invited by the City to come to the city council mtg to work at coming up with a foodtruck ordinance. Bottom line. Parts of the City don’t want foodtrucks, and those parts have the ear of the Police.

  3. I just listened to the call and can’t believe anyone would take that much time out of their day to make a complaint like that other than for the simple reason they are targeting Klausie’s. And what a cowardly way to go about it. Wonder if that voice sounds familiar to Mike, by any chance?

    I applaud Mike for his hard work and tenacity in this seemingly endless battle.
    By now I would have moved to Durham and say to hell with Raleigh.

  4. I am a supporter of Raleigh Police but I cannot defend this incident.

    The officer had no business asking for a business license if the issue was the way Mr. Klausie’s truck was parked. Mr. Klausie wasn’t operating the truck at the time, he was obviously attending the city council proceedings which directly affect his livelihood.

    I believe an apology from the city is in order. One can debate the merits and detriments of adding food trucks to our community businesses, and that’s fine. However, this little stunt was well out of bounds.

  5. As ridiculous as it is that somebody called to complain, I still don’t see any problems with how the police officer handled the situation. I wasn’t there so can’t speak to how he “acted” or how you “felt” but think calling it police intimidation is a bit over top. Is it normal for 911 calls to have meter readers dispatched? How could the cop have know why you were downtown to attend a meeting (perhaps he doesn’t follow the food truck debate as others).

    I’m glad you were invited to the meeting and can appreciate you were coming from work, but an invitation doesn’t mean you have to come in your truck that is currently not allowed downtown. I assume you have other means of transporationsportation and don’t use the klausie’s food truck to run errands on the weekend.

    I want food trucks downtown, but feel that some of the drama food truck operators are creating is both silly and unhelpful when trying to create a constructive solution.

  6. I really don’t give a flying flip whether food trucks are allowed or not. I DO care that our city treats all of its citizens fairly. You, Mark, may not.

    The cop had no business asking for a business license for a parking violation, period. That’s punitive and it simply stinks. I’m aghast that you would try to defend it.

    Debate food trucks if you will, allow them or bar them or do something in-between, but treat each side with respect. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?

  7. Mark,

    The officer was way out of line to ask for a business permit or for anything that did not involve the alleged parking violation. Secondly, if he was not operating the truck as a food truck at that moment, what does it matter if he drove it downtown or not? Last time I checked, it was not illegal to drive a truck in downtown Raleigh. The fact that the cop got out of his patrol car and said “you have 3 problems” shows that he had a chip on his shoulder and wanted to attempt to bully Mike. How can you defend that?

  8. Mark T. and Bill. Whether or not it is appropriate to request to see the business permit is debatable but not an indication of “police intimidation”. That is just plain silly and an attemp to create drama.

    My comment about using the truck itslef was in repsonse to Mr. Stenke’s comment that he was invited to the meeting. Just because he was invited to the meeting doesn’t mean he has to bring the truck. How is the officer to know he wasn’t selling out of it before he got there or had plans to do so.

    The world may revolve around the food truck scene for those who keep track of the issue, but this cop was just responding to a complaint. He doesn’t know why the truck is there and asking why isn’t harrassment.

    There are a lot of legitmate beefs the food trucks have with how the city has handled this issue. But this is not one of them. Since you all are guessing at the cops intentions I will go ahead and guess at Mr. Stenke’s motivation. I recall when he first opened shop he tried to park out in front of Bogart’s Grill by Glenwood Avenue to catch the late night crowd. He was promplty shut down by the police. If I were him I would have a chip on my shoulder about police too, clearly he is expressing his angst through this bogus complaint.

    Speaking of police, how many of you read about how the Durham police are selectively enforcing The Durham Code of Ordinances, Chapter 54, Section 109, governs mobile food carts in the public right-of-way and calls for them to move 60 feet every 15 minutes.

    So I guess Durham doesn’t have the most friendly ordinance either. Raleigh can either spend time crafting a meaningful ordinance that makes sense or can go down the slippery slope of selectively enforcing a faulty ordinance like Durham. I know which one I want.

  9. Speaking of treating people with respect, I don’t find Mr. Stenke’s comments about local business owners on his very own business facebook page to be very respectful or professional. I’d have alot more respect for him if he met privately with restaurant owners to work out their differences rather than publicly bash them on his facebook site. It is very unbecoming for a business owner to act so unprofessional.

    I think childish ranting in public media do very little to move your position forward and do more harm than good. I actually want to see food trucks downtown, but have been gravely disappointed how poorly the food truck vendors have acted and presented their case. They have made a lot of missteps along the way and have relied too heavily on public outcry from a public who’s interest is waning on the issue.

  10. Mark–Mike was coming directly to the meeting after doing a lunch job. He would have driven his regular car if there was time to go pick it up at the commissary, but there wasn’t. As it was, he barely got there in time for the meeting. He didn’t bring the truck to create drama. It was just practical.

  11. Also, Mike doesn’t have a problem with the police officer–who was most likely just doing what he was told–but with whoever told the officer that he should ask someone who may or may not be parked outside the lines for their business license.

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten a couple of parking tickets in my life–heck, I once accidentally ran into a bus–and I’ve never been asked for my business license.

    Lastly, who knows what the officer knew or didn’t know, but it’s clear from the 911 call that Mike was down there for the City Council meeting.

  12. Thanks to the writer for this well-written, informative article. Keep up the good work!

  13. I attended this meeting. I would like to think I have a balanced view on this issue, where I support local restaurants and the investment required to establish a permanent location as well as food trucks. The discussion was frustrating and required the Councilwoman to squeeze out a few action items which may address some of the Councilmen’s issues.

    Councilmen Odom, Weeks, and Crowder (who made a guest appearance) appear to have little intention of allowing this ordinance to pass. Between Crowder’s raising of issues which existing laws mitigate (sound ordinance) and the lack of any suggestion of actionable items, compromise, or reasoning by the other councilmen.

    The Councilwoman put it well to the committee when she made the statement (not an exact quotation here), “With [those distance restrictions] we would basically be banning food trucks from downtown. If we are going to ban food trucks from downtown, lets just come out and say it.” responded to with silence from Councilman Weeks and Odom.

    After listening to the 911 call. I speculate this is one of the citizens who was active during public comment period with city council regarding food truck legislation. I was very impressed that he was the only individual with very specific suggestions about language changes in the ordinance, even if I did not agree with all of them.

    This particular individual appeared to be very satisfied that the ordinance did not achieve consensus to leave the committee. It is unfortunate that he is playing petty games with Klausie’s Pizza’s owner who happens to disagree with him during council discussions. This particular citizen has lost all respect I had for him during this discussion.