By Marisa Gottesman | Sun-Sentinel
Smoke wafts from the top of a bright orange food truck parked outside Saltwater Brewery on a recent Friday afternoon.
A line forms outside the brewhouse as folks get their fill of glazed ribs and collard greens to accompany their locally made ale.
The budding relationship between food truck operators and the craft brewery is a new one. Until September, Delray Beach banned food trucks from operating in the city.
But a request from the five friends and founders of the brewery helped ease the city’s stance on food trucks. The city allowed the brewery, which doesn’t have a kitchen and is located in the middle of an industrial area just west of Interstate 95 at 1701 West Atlantic Ave., to invite food trucks to serve munchies.
“The customers stay here versus going somewhere else when they get hungry,” said Saltwater’s manager Cameron Donisi.
There are no plans to add a kitchen at the former Delray Feed and Seed warehouse turned brewery. That’s because Saltwater is classified as a brewery and sells its beer to a distributor, so it isn’t permitted to sell food, Donisi said.
While the food truck ban was in effect, he said beer aficionados either ordered food in from a delivery service or left once the hunger pangs set in.
At the request of the brewery, city officials allowed food trucks to operate under a pilot program to help feed hungry people. The temporary program is set to expire in August.
To date, city records show 14 food truck operators have applied to set up at the brewery and city officials say the program has been running smoothly.
Delray commissioners say they would like the program to continue, permanently.
“I think it’s been a great success,” Commissioner Al Jacquet said.
Food truck operator Gerard Harris agreed the program has helped his business. Harris owns Tom’s Place World Famous Bar B-Q food truck with his wife, Belinda Harris. He said people line up to taste the pulled pork and baked beans. He said it has been a great opportunity for him to let locals know he plans on one day opening a restaurant in Delray.
“The experience has been awesome,” he said. “The customers have been outstanding.”
Boca Raton resident Walter Coven was recently one of Harris’ customers. Coven said he enjoys going to Saltwater to pair a cold brew with a meal.
“I like the scene,” he said of the brewery, adding the food is a nice bonus. “The food happens to be good. Food trucks are a great little business for small entrepreneurs. They should be encouraged as long as they are regulated.”
The current rules for operating a food truck in Delray under the pilot program:
• To set up a food truck, the owners must pay the city a $300 application fee.
An annual renewal fee would cost $150.
The trucks are allowed to sell food at an approved location for a maximum of four days per week, but no more than three consecutive days.
The trucks are allowed to run for four hours per location in between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Food trucks are still banned downtown. They are allowed in industrial parts of the city.
The rules from the pilot program may be approved and made permanent by a commission vote at an upcoming meeting.
Food trucks and breweries
Delray Beach has a thriving pilot program for food trucks, officials say, but it isn’t the only city in Palm Beach County with food trucks situated at a brewery.
The setup is similar in Boynton Beach. There, the city has allowed food trucks to open in front of three breweries.
Mike Halker, of Due South Brewery in Boynton Beach, said that the food trucks are good for business. Not just for him, but for the food truck operators.
“We don’t serve food, but our customers do want to eat while they’re drinking beer,” Halker said. “Food trucks have been great for us, it allows the customers to stay at our business longer.”