Asheville, NC: Food Trucks Prepping Downtown Parking Lot

By Joel Burgess | Citizen-Times

ASHEVILLE — One of the city’s newest culinary trends could be rolling into downtown by the end of the month.

Food trucks that were banned from downtown for more than two decades until a September City Council vote are working to ready a parking lot south of Patton Avenue, said Marni Graves, owner of the Pink Taco Truck.

“We’re hoping to be there before Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” said Graves, who specializes in southwestern and Mexican food.

The 51 Coxe Ave. lot is south of the Asheville Transit Center and is big enough to hold up to four trucks, according to the city ordinance passed this fall.

To be ready, the lot has to have electrical power ready for each of the trucks and plant four trees near the sidewalk to satisfy landscaping rules.

Once the lot gets its final OK, the trucks will also have to get permits, city planner Alan Glines said.

“It’s just like if you have a building. You can’t occupy the building until there has been a final inspection. And the tenants going into the building might require their own permits,” Glines said.

While the lot can only hold four trucks at one time, different trucks are allowed to rotate through at different times of the day.

Along with the Pink Taco, other interested vendors include Suzy Phillips, who serves Lebanese food from her Gypsy Queen Cuisine truck, and Nate Kelly, who dishes out Southern and soul food from his Lowdown truck, Graves said. “We have been meeting monthly or more often with most of the food truck owners interested in coming down there, and the list grows each meeting,” she said.

The trucks can operate 8 a.m-2 a.m., according to the new city rule.

The food truck issue proved contentious and stretched out over months with many restaurateurs opposing the mobile kitchens that had become popular in other parts of the city.

Restaurant owners said trucks would be taking advantage of a downtown that was revitalized in large part by risk-taking entrepreneurs who pay thousands of dollars in property taxes and on whose back much of downtown’s future rests.

But truck owners said allowing street food ranging from tacos to falafel will help small entrepreneurs in a tough economy and add to the city’s burgeoning culinary scene.

Food carts which do little or no on-site preparation were not affected by the change.