By Megan Mitchell | Denver Post
AURORA —After a yearlong test drive, food trucks are now formally allowed to do business in the city, and vendors of every cuisine are flocking to the new territory.
This time last year, around 30 food trucks were registered in Aurora; there were 123 in July.
“Programs like this are an important part of the city’s overall effort to provide economic opportunities, especially for our small businesses,” said Vinessa Irvin, manager of the city’s Office of Development Assistance.
The test regulations that City Council adopted last year gave the food trucks permission to operate anywhere in the city as long as it was at least 175 feet away from the front door of an open brick and mortar restaurant, and at least 50 feet away from any residential areas.
Those restrictions will still apply, but City Council included a new provision to allow the trucks on the grounds of neighborhood schools during special events only.
“The requirement is that the school gives them permission to operate during a school-sanctioned event,” Irvin said.
That change was the result of feedback from the community over the last year. Among the most common responses were questions about food trucks and school zones. City officials say that multiple schools petitioned them for the option to use food trucks on occasion.
The city also tracked complaints about food trucks and also issued a survey to affected entities like Food Truck Row and the Colorado Restaurant Association to gauge their test regulations. Julie Patterson, spokeswoman for Aurora, said the city received an 83 percent satisfaction with the food trucks from that survey.
“Very few complaints were received in the past 12 months specific to mobile food vendors, and only two were specific to the new pilot program,” Irvin said. “Both were regarding specific operating procedures and were easily resolved when vendors were educated on the rules.”
Prior to the city drafting pilot regulations for food trucks last year, food truck businesses had to choose a single location on private property and stay there. They also had to be 1,500 feet from other food trucks, making something like a mobile food court impossible.
But last year, Aurora launched a monthly food truck corral at its municipal building called the Food Truck Rodeo. The event is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every third Friday from May through October, and Leon Stamatis, the owner of a food truck called California Wrap Runner, said it’s been very good for business.
“This is our first season, and our second time here at (the Food Truck Rodeo),” Stamatis said. “We love it here. It’s a great atmosphere, and we’re doing pretty well here so far. We’ll definitely keep coming.”
But not all vendors have been raking in the cash on the Great Lawn.
Britney Turk, an employee of the Dessert Stand, which sells baked goods like cupcakes, said this is also her second time at the Food Truck Rodeo.
“It’s been a little slow for us.” Turk said. “We’re going to decide if we’re going to do this again. Last time was really bad, so we’re not sure.”
She said a higher density location for the monthly congregation might be more ideal, but expanding the event isn’t on the city’s radar right now.
“We only started that event this year, aside from one Friday last year,” Patterson said. “I would imagine that the event will continue on the Great Lawn as we are always looking for good ways to use that wonderful event space out there.”
Sept. 18 food truck rodeo vendors:
Manna From Heaven