Chapel Hill, NC: Fees May Stall Food Trucks

Will Pettis was told last March he could not park in front of Dead Mule Club on West Franklin, despite having the property owner's permission. photo: HARRY LYNCH

By KATELYN FERRAL  | NewsObserver.com

Will Pettis was told last March he could not park in front of Dead Mule Club on West Franklin, despite having the property owner's permission. photo: HARRY LYNCH

CHAPEL HILL — Food trucks will soon be allowed in Chapel Hill, but many vendors say the costs will keep them away.

The Town Council unanimously passed new regulations for food trucks and trailers this week that restrict the vehicles to private property and include several permits – the most expensive in the Triangle.

Vendors will have to pay a $600 annual fee, get a $118 zoning permit and a $50 privilege license. The property owner that hosts the truck will have to get a $118 permit.

“That’s going to be cost prohibitive for a lot of trucks,” said Brian Bottger, owner of Durham-based Only Burger food truck. “That’s going to give me second thoughts.”

The fees will offset the cost of hiring a part-time employee to enforce the new regulations, which take effect March 1.

Trucks will be inspected at least once a month and can only be parked on private property, at least 100 feet away from a restaurant while it is closed, unless a property owner waives that restriction, according to the regulations.

The call to consider food trucks in town came last summer from Lex Alexander, owner of 3Cups cafe on Elliott Road in Chapel Hill. His wife, Ann, who works with food trucks in Durham, says the couple is disappointed in the new regulations and expensive permitting requirements.

“We just think it’s ridiculous,” she said. “Chapel Hill is making it so hard for the food trucks to be here.”

“I can guarantee you they don’t have $600 in their pockets,” she said.

Food truck fees and permits across the Triangle are several hundred dollars less than Chapel Hill’s fees.

Raleigh charges the trucks $150 to sell their food and a $76 permit for property owners.

Durham requires a $50 zoning permit and a $25 privilege license for vendors, and no permit for property owners.

Carrboro charges $25 for a privilege license, $60 for a zoning permit for vendors and no permit for property owners.

Mike Steinke talks to business students at UNC-Chapel Hill about entrepreneurship but says he can’t afford the new fees to park his Klausie’s food truck, which sells pizza, in town. The new ordinance is a “dream killer,” he said.

“This law is great way of saying to food trucks, ‘No, we don’t want you,’ ” he said. “We want to look cool passing a law, but we don’t intend for anybody to use it.”

Will & Pops food trucks was kicked out of Chapel Hill last summer, before the town adopted rules for food trucks, but says they won’t return.

“The fees are exorbitant,” said Carol Edenton, who runs the truck with Will Pettis and his father. “It’s obvious that the town truly does not want to embrace the trucks.”

Jonathan Richelson plans to open his food truck, Sympathy for the Deli, next month but probably not in Chapel Hill.

“I’m glad that they’ve allowed food trucks,” he said. “It’s better than having it banned completely, (but) it makes Durham and Carrboro even more appealing to work in.”