NORMAL – The Normal Town Council Monday night will consider what to do with food trucks.
Local owners, called Two Blokes and a Bus, have been renovating an old double decker bus from England for several months, turning it into a food truck.
Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said they’ve asked about operating throughout the town, so the council will consider if current code permits that.
“They’ve become very active in large urban areas, like the city of Chicago and New York and Washington, D.C., and so forth. But, they’re now kind of making their way into the smaller communities, like Champaign, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal,” Peterson said.
Champaign recently started a one-year pilot program for the food trucks, allowing them on public property for 2-hours at a time. Champaign Assistant Planning Director Rob Kowalski told WJBC the program is “going very well.”
Peterson said staff recommend applying current code.
“The council has the option of restricting that by making changes to the code or they have the opportunity to liberalize that,” Peterson said. “This is one of those somewhat open ended issues.”
The food truck would travel throughout the Twin Cities with what the owners call a global menu. The code would not allow the truck to operate on public property.
A group of Uptown business owners opposes having food trucks set up in Uptown.
Ryan Fiala, who owns DP Dough, said if the town allows food truck vendors, it would open the flood gates.
“If you open the door, everyone will want to do it. You will not find people who want to open physical restaurants in nearly the numbers they do now and vacant storefronts will be the result,” Fiala said.
Fiala also said customers are also more likely to create outdoor trash and use the restrooms of other businesses.
Said Saliba, who owns the Rock Restaurant, said mobile vendors shouldn’t have the same benefits as those business owners who have made substantial investments in the community.
“We have invested a lot of money in these buildings here. I’m not saying these guys didn’t invest money in their food truck, but nothing compared to what we did and we continue to do,” Saliba said.
Faila and Saliba have co-signed a letter to the town council with the owners of La Bamba’s, Maggie Miley’s, Chill Out!, Jimmy John’s and Bill’s Key and Lock in expressing their opposition to the proposal.
Jon Fritzen, one of the restauranteurs behind Two Blokes and a Bus, said they’ve been trying to communicate with the town and other businesses regarding their concerns about mobile food vendors. He believes the market will show that there is room for mobile services in the Uptown.
“We want to be good neighbors,” said Jon Fritzen. “We feel there is room for us to operate in the Uptown Business District, but we definitely would not want to park our bus directly in front of another restaurant.”
Fritzen said one of the first private parking lots the bus would likely appear in is outside the Alamo II. He said he hopes the food truck will be allowed on public property some day like those in Champaign.
He also added the two “blokes” do pay property taxes for their garage and commissary site.
Also before the town council Monday night, electricity aggregation which the council will decide whether or not to send back before voters in November.
And, local bicycle advocacy group Bike BloNo will make a presentation.
Stephanie Pawlowski can be reached at Stephanie@wjbc.com.