Terrorist Attacks, Drugs and Danger: Why City Council Doesn't Want Food Trucks Downtown

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City Council Food Trucks 012.jpg
Houston rapper and Rice University lecturer Bun B addressed the Council in support of food trucks.
From big-name Houston industry persons such as Chris Shepherd and Bobby Heugel to public figures such as Rice University lecturer Bernard Freeman, also known as rapper Bun B, there was an outpouring of support for food trucks at the hearing, but that support seemed to fall on deaf ears.

The Council similarly refused to consider the points of view brought by organizations such as the Downtown District (which is in support of food trucks) or Urban Harvest. In one particularly bizarre digression -- one of many that stretched the hearing out for hours -- Council Member Wanda Adams attempted to accuse Urban Harvest of not running a "real" enough farmers market outside of City Hall.

But perhaps the most confusing statement of the day came from Burks, whose sole experience with food trucks seemed limited to a rather bucolic scene he witnessed in Washington D.C.:

Parking is at a premium downtown. It's not easy. Restaurants pay these dollars and cents to keep their doors open...but these food trucks are not regulated by anyone. We're talking about competition here -- there's no competition here. There's danger here. If it were competition and only competition, it wouldn't be dangerous. So what I'm saying is that I don't like this at all. I'll be outright with you: I'm not going to vote for it. I went to Washington D.C. in March this year and saw food trucks lined up and hundreds of people were lined up inside the park buying their food. And the trucks were not even the same. It looked like one raggedy truck and one nice truck and another raggedy, small truck. Is this what we want in downtown Houston? Is this the way we want our city to look? Is this the way we want to see our city at baseball games or at sporting events? Is this what we want to make our city look like?

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Photo by Andrew Bossi
Yet another example of the terrible events that could occur should Houston allow food trucks downtown, as witnessed in this shocking photo from D.C.
Burks long comment prompted a chorus of "Yes!" to ring out from the audience, at which point I was sure that the Council was going to start kicking people out. Mercifully, it was the last outburst of the day.

On the bright side, not all Council members seemed opposed to the decreased regulations. Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzales was helpful and patient throughout, asking reasoned questions and attempting to steer comments back on track. And despite her farmers market issues, Adams seemed similarly open.

If you support allowing food trucks to operate downtown and in the Medical Center, if you support allowing food trucks to provide a few seats or if you support a free market that allows healthy competition and brings vibrancy and foot traffic to areas that need it, there are plenty of ways to make your voice heard.

One way to start is by attending this Sunday's mobile food truck rally at The Refinery (a downtown restaurant that encourages food trucks!) from 4 to 10 p.m. You can also by sign a petition in support of food truck growth or simply write your City Council member. Tell them yes -- this is what we want our city to look like.



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1953 Montrose, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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113 comments
Stephenpgorman
Stephenpgorman

@radleybalko Someone said the same thing to the Washington, DC City Council about UBER drivers.

KyleHuckins213
KyleHuckins213

@radleybalko Betting Bloomberg convinceed them of this.

gl33p
gl33p

Weapons of Mass Convenience. Do food trucks pose an dire threat to the people of Houston? http://t.co/ABaldYwX /v @radleybalko

normative
normative

@radleybalko Obviously someone's seen Cheech & Chong's "Nice Dreams" too many times.

cwage
cwage

@radleybalko the grilled cheeserie's food qualifies as a drug, as far as I'm concerned

ScreaminMetal
ScreaminMetal

@radleybalko I would be severly pissed should someone screw with my Chili Dogs!!!!

Kitchen Incubator
Kitchen Incubator

David, part of the reason downtown business are struggling is because there are simply no people downtown after 6 pm. Part of the reason for this is because the emptiness of downtown streets makes people feel unsafe and part of it is because there simply is not enough to attract people to stay after the workday or bring in people on weekends. Additionally, downtown businesses tend to be rather archaic or corporate chains due to the high cost of doing business in the area and the large developer preference for proven concepts and large capital requirements. As a result, a neighborhood that has more architectural character and history than any other in Houston is left with commerce that does not do it justice. Food trucks represent the alternative. They bring people into the streets and encourage urban communities. They provide an invaluable attraction for events and can greatly assist bars, stores and coffee shops in attracting and retaining customers. One has only to look at other cities to understand that food trucks have served to create and add to vibrant urban business districts rather than hurt existing business. Your mentality is a threat to progress in our city, small business and entrepreneurship. Let us know what we can do to help educate people like you so you can understand! -- From a downtown business owner actively involved in the Downtown Business Association and downtown revitalization

artsie_lilly
artsie_lilly

Dear City Council: What is your problem? You don't sound 'reasonable' or thoughtful as you apparently think. I say "Yessssss!" this is what we want our city to look like"...free enterprise, people fulfillling their dreams of getting from out from under some ridiculous boss, making a living and something they "enjoy". It brings 'culture' and more choices, and we could use some 'affordable' gourmet type bites here. And 'gasp' YOU may even like what they are serving up. And please get with the times. If every other city in America, has despensed with propane laws, YOU can too.Geez. 

WholeHeartedMom
WholeHeartedMom

@HoustonHeights what is in their coffee? Sounds a bit too much.

My Virtual Neighbor
My Virtual Neighbor

We're looking forward to seeing everyone at the Food Truck Rally this afternoon.

adriennebyard
adriennebyard

@Bobby_Heugel @eatingourwords @mfuhouston that article was astonishing. I can't believe some of those things were said.

abOUTMagazine
abOUTMagazine

AbOUT Magazine- These elected officials are idiots!

gingerkmen
gingerkmen

We have petition sheets at Kraftsmen at the order counter for anyone who comes in!  We have already filled up countless. 

I wasnt sure if I wanted to run for city council after this because it is run by such morons or if I would just be too frustrated with their idiocy. 

gingerkmen
gingerkmen

That was some of the most RIDICULOUS stuff I have ever heard.  Unbelievable.   

Craigley
Craigley

Food trucks would kill downtown restaurants for sure.  

 

PRINT IT

kittenfc
kittenfc

@HoustonPress how are our elected officials so disconnected from real life? So aggravating!

del.martinis
del.martinis topcommenter

What is the problem with Houston?  Not just food truck regulations, but also strict control of neon signs in the theater district that makes it look like we don't even have one. I'm sure these council members have been to other thriving downtown's like Chicago, which enjoy all of these benefits! 

mcut1
mcut1

yet another example of the city leaders Gestapo on small business. What's happening here is the same old thing, by the same underhanded group of people (with the exclusion of a couple of council members).  The same people that bring you the sound and parking ordinances. Can we impeach? Or will we end up with Archstone and Perry homes along with strip centers and every restaurant owned by Taco Bell? Along with the Montrose Management Group ( which one of the council members is the Mayors partner) steam rolling us all? Wake up Houston!

hprocksoff
hprocksoff

@dustinprestige And a lame excuse too.

Blake Whitaker
Blake Whitaker

David Lee, part of owning a business is dealing with competition. Sometimes restaurants go out of business because consumers find something they like better. It's how the market works. By your logic we should also not allow any other brick and mortar places to open up, either, because that would take business away from the existing restaurants downtown. Doesn't make any sense at all.

mfsmit
mfsmit

@Bobby_Heugel @EatingOurWords @MFUHouston Council is siding with entrenched interests over small businesses and startups. Wonder why?$?

Catherine McQueen
Catherine McQueen

Shameful. What an embarrassment to Houston that this is even an issue.

traikman
traikman

@SalsaFrescaTaco Whew. I thought you were saying YES to the stadium. Great article!

jmkubica
jmkubica

 if you'll just help us stifle thise pesky food trucks  - we'll make it more than worth your while come election time. 

Loveats
Loveats

Another note:

 

Not all food trucks are trying to open restaurants i.e. Bernies Burger Bus and Waffle Bus.  And who's to say there might not be more multi unit food trucks.

 

Lets also look at the jobs restaurants create.  For each successful restaurant you can safely say each one employs at the very minimum 10-15 people.  A truck employs 3 tops.  Assuming the restaurants lose business due to trucks that potentially is 10-15 people who will lose their jobs.

radleybalko
radleybalko

The ONDCP put out a warning ad about it last year. RT @cwage the grilled cheeserie's food qualifies as a drug, as far as I'm concerned

JRCohen
JRCohen

@adriennebyard @Bobby_Heugel @EatingOurWords yeah, hearing it as it happened was SOMETHING I'll never forget.

Loveats
Loveats

 @gingerkmen I wouldnt want you on council...you shut down a few locations because of poor management.

 

Loveats
Loveats

 @Craigley in addition to killing other existing restaurants.  Then when those restaurants disappear you'll hear people complain why our downtown blows.

 

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

 @Loveats I'm not trying to be contrary, but rather suggesting a different point of view: which is that I think your opinion of food trucks might change drastically if you had a chance to sit down and talk with many of the owners. They're just as hard-working and keen to have downtown Houston succeed as I imagine you are. Part of this whole issue, I believe, is that the food trucks need to do a better job of reaching out to more restaurant owners, civic groups, neighborhood associations, etc. to allow people to understand their true aim in all of this. Most food trucks don't want to hurt anyone else's business -- they want to work side-by-side with restaurants (and, really, food trucks and restaurants are apples and oranges when you get right down to it) to improve Houston's food scene overall. Maybe you could come out to the rally on Sunday and get to know a few of them?

Wendy
Wendy

 @Loveats This is ridiculous. Show me one person who will suddenly begin eating only at food trucks and never again at a restaurant. Just like any other eatery, it depends on what your potential customers want to eat, how much they want to spend, and how much time they have. This isn't the same as one pizzeria losing business to another one--what you're saying is similar to stating that an upscale restaurant will absolutely go out of business because there's a McDonald's next door. I can't speak for other people who work downtown, but there are days when my husband would rather sit down and eat (especially if he's eating with others) and there are days when he just wants something quick. If restaurants are losing business to food trucks, I think there's something else they need to look at.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

 @Loveats A typical food truck employs more than 3 people, but anyway that assumes that the food truck is feeding as many people as the restaurant feeds. Do you really think that's true? Do you really think any food truck is serving as many customers in a week as, say, Frank's Pizza? Go check it out on a packed Friday or Saturday night.

Anse
Anse

@Loveats It's funny that this pro-business city has people who are suddenly concerned about competition. If food trucks don't belong downtown, I reckon they can figure that out pretty easily by not getting any business. I don't see how we can say we want to encourage downtown development, and then throw up obstacles to a group of businesses that very much want to operate downtown.

gingerkmen
gingerkmen

 @Loveats

 Um *I* did not have anything to do with shutdowns.  Since *I* have been here, this company has improved immensely, and *I* have helped turn this Heights cafe completely around. We would love to have you in to try it out.

Anse
Anse

@Loveats @Craigley I went to Portland, OR earlier this summer. Tons of food trucks. Too many, really. But amazingly enough, there were a whole lot of restaurants, too, and they didn't appear to be hurting for business. This whole line of reasoning is stupid.

del.martinis
del.martinis topcommenter

 @ShitThrowingMonkey If you've ever been to New York, it's what makes it what it is.  Yes, flashy and colorful, as theater often is.  

Loveats
Loveats

 @Wendy You forget these food trucks are serving gourmet food similar to some fine dining restaurants.  Who would have thought you could get bone marrow out of a truck?  LIke stated, doesnt take much change to swing the pendulum to less favorable conditions.  This holds especially true with the restaurant industry.

 

I never said they would solely eat from the trucks...the point is that enough people start frequenting the trucks the less business there is to distribute to other fixed stores. 

Loveats
Loveats

 @Kylejack What you have failed to do is look at the economics of a brick and mortar restaurant.  It doesnt take much to put a restaurant on hard times.  98% of restaurants have extremely thin margins from which to make money.  A small decrease of patrons goes a very long ways.

 

Loveats
Loveats

Do you actually think food trucks are going to aid in the development of downtown?  They are mobile food trucks..not permanent fixtures.  They will roll in, sell their product then head out to the next location.  Their only interest is the lunch service in downtown.   Thats the only time when you have thousands of people in downtown at the same time.

Anse
Anse

@Loveats Man, if your restaurant serves good food with good service, why in the heck should you worry about a food truck? How is a food truck going to challenge your business in a way that other restaurants won't? You know as well as I do that this doesn't make any sense. Besides that, there are plenty of reasons why you might prefer a restaurant to a food truck. This is beyond ridiculous.

Loveats
Loveats

 How do you know they werent hurting for business?  Did you see the P&L statements?  Some are backed by investor groups who can float restaurants.  It doesnt mean they are doing well.

del.martinis
del.martinis topcommenter

 @ShitThrowingMonkey Maybe so, now that you mention Dallas LOL!  Possibly well lit electronic billboards.  LED is too bright.  Anything that gives you a sense of a place and lights up the Theater District ...

ShitThrowingMonkey
ShitThrowingMonkey

 @del.martinis Been there a few times for work and for play, and will go back.  I'm open to ideas but don't think neon is a fit.  Neon is so Dallas.

SirRon
SirRon topcommenter

You people are crazy. What exactly is wrong with @Loveats  dictating what types of businesses should succeed? It's food! This dude's name is "Love" "Eats". He's got this. Chill out y'all.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

 @Loveats You can't get Mexican-Korean fusion at any restaurant in town that I'm aware of, but that's what Coreanos is selling. The Modular is also pushing the envelope, making East Coast quality ramen. Nobody in town is putting in those kind of hours on making ramen stock as it takes all day to make.As to sanitation, they're inspected periodically by the city and have to check in at the commissary 24 hours before serving. They get citations and fines just like restaurants. This issue, of course, is completely divorced from the regulation changes that are being proposed.

Loveats
Loveats

 @Kylejack Name one food truck that is serving food you cant get at any restaurant?  Waffe Bus...yeah i can get that at a restaurant, korean food...check, hot dogs...check, pizza...check.  I personally think trucks are an eyesore and how sanitized can these trucks really be.  Its over 100 degrees in those trucks and these cooks are sweating everywhere.  They are constantly opening their doors leaving the "kitchen" exposed to the elements.  We might as well let vendors set up at the local bbq pits in parks.  There really isnt any difference.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

 @Loveats For the entrepreneur, it allows someone to sell their product for a lower investment cost. There's some creative people out there who don't have half a million to drop on a restaurant buildout. For the consumer, it gives them more options, and lets them try food that maybe hasn't found a way to deliver in an established brick & mortar.It won't appeal to everyone. Some will still want to sit in an air-conditioned restaurant. Some don't like the idea of buying from a truck. That's fine. The market can decide.

Loveats
Loveats

 @Kylejack What is the allure of food trucks in the first place?  I have yet to get a clear reasonable answer from anyone who visits them.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

 @Loveats Maybe we should ban all restaurants from downtown except for one, so that one restaurant has maximum chance for success. Maybe we should ban food trucks from the entire city if we fear them competing with restaurants.Why do some businesses deserve special protection over others?

wombatbbq
wombatbbq

 @Loveats They need written consent to park on private lots. This also means they are told where and when they can park in those spots. It's not like if they got the ok to serve downtown, they would be able to park anywhere and steal business. Food trucks have been known to work with businesses, not against them. They've been able to increase profit with the places they work near.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

 @Loveats If you think trucks have it so easy, why doesn't everyone who owns a restaurant just switch to a truck? Seems to me that there are advantages to both.

Loveats
Loveats

 @arrodiii Downtown restaurants cant get up and move like a truck.  Trucks cash in on lunch rush and then burn out to the next hot spot.  I'd like to see the restaurants downtown load it up and move out like that daily.  You just reinforced my point.

arrodiii
arrodiii

 @Loveats

 Considering that most downtown restaurants cater only to lunchtime crowds, I don't see how food trucks using the same strategy is any worse off.

Loveats
Loveats

 @Kylejack Come on now...thats not true.  I used to work in downtown and even though i didnt always walk outside the tunnels i knew what restaurants were around me.  A food truck isnt going to make me more willing to eat somewhere else.

 

 

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

 @Loveats Sure, they'll improve pedestrian traffic. Many who work in downtown either bring a sack lunch or head straight for the tunnels. Getting people back on the surface lets them notice restaurants they maybe forgot about, like Ziggy's, Frank's, Market Square Bar & Grill, etc.

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