Editorial: An appetite for food trucks, after all

May. 16, 2013 @ 04:38 PM

Apparently, we were wrong.

It happens!

Not so long ago, we surmised in this space that Chapel Hill’s Town Council didn’t want to see popular food trucks trundling around the community.

But last week, as The Chapel Hill Herald’s Gregory Childress reported, council members sent an entirely different message.

They voted to cut an exorbitant vendor regulatory fee from $600 to $200, starting in July.

Tasty decision, we think.

It’s a decent compromise amount for the permit – not as low as the bigger cities in the Triangle, but enough to help Chapel Hill pay for the cost of keeping an eye on health and safety issues with these vendors.

We don’t envy council members, who have to balance a budget that’s a fraction the size of larger metropolitan areas while trying to provide extra opportunities for the town of Chapel Hill.

The sky-high $600 fee, approved in January 2012, just proved far too much for most food truck operators. We sympathize with them too. After all, their budgets often are even less than Chapel Hill’s. So, the town priced itself out of the market for more than a year, selling only two permits, and both of those were to Baguettaboutit.

“The fee was a choking point for us,” said Tracy Livers, operator of Olde North State BBQ.

The new fee makes Chapel Hill more accessible. She plans to buy a permit this summer.

We’re glad to hear that and we hope other food truck operators will take the opportunity to give Chapel Hill a try. When students return to UNC this fall, they may find a growing assortment of mobile dining options roaming around Franklin Street.

The council also approved two amendments for their food truck ordinance. One allows the trucks to handle catering, while the other clears trucks to participate in food truck rodeos. Organizers of those food truck rodeos would need to pay an annual $200 specialty market fee.

We commend the Town Council for giving food truck operators and Chapel Hill residents an opportunity to share in the culinary craze that has proven so popular in Durham and Raleigh.