Chapel Hill Town Council Debates Food Truck Regulations

By Lindsay Pope | The Daily Tar Heel

After restaurant owners and food truck operators went head to head at Monday’s Chapel Hill Town Council meeting, servers and diners are no closer to knowing if the town will loosen regulations on food trucks.

Chapel Hill restaurants have struggled in a tough economic climate, and West End Wine Bar owner Jared Resnick said he doesn’t look favorably on more competition.

He said he does not support food trucks in Chapel Hill because they don’t contribute to the local economy.

“Why add more water to an already diluted situation,” Resnick said, speaking on behalf of the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group.

“This does nothing to help build these businesses. It takes from them.”

Food trucks are legal in the Chapel Hill, but strict regulations make them almost impossible to successfully operate.

The trucks operate in Durham and Carrboro, and Chapel Hill is accepting public opinion about loosening regulations so that they can open in town limits.

The town’s regulations do not apply to UNC’s campus.

Resnick said Carrboro’s small size allows food trucks to succeed there, but he doesn’t believe Chapel Hill would have the same success because it has more restaurants.

“We are committed to the town, and we need the town to be committed to us by not taking away what we are already fighting so hard for,” Resnick said.

But Lex Alexander, managing partner at 3CUPS and the resident who initiated the petition, said the food trucks will benefit entrepreneurs and residents despite the complicated process of changing the regulations.

Brian Bottger, owner of OnlyBurger in Durham, said his brick-and-mortar restaurant started out as a food truck, and he supports food trucks as long as they have some regulations.

“I don’t want someone to park a burger truck in front of my restaurant,” he said.

Bottger said food trucks create a buzz and a vibrancy in the community, and he would love to see the restraints relaxed in Chapel Hill. An OnlyBurger truck is frequently parked on Duke University’s campus, and Bottger hopes to expand to other campuses.

“We do it at Duke, we could certainly do it at UNC,” he said.

Mike Stenke, a pizza food truck operator, said he is also dissatisfied with the restrictions because it’s too hard for him to sell in Chapel Hill.

“My truck is ready to make pizzas outside, and unfortunately I’ll probably have to go to Durham to do that,” he said.

Stenke said food trucks can be a gateway to owning a brick-and-mortar restaurant, contributing more to the local economy.

“I’m ready to get out of this truck and start working in a restaurant,” he said. “(Food trucks) really are restaurant incubators, at least for me.”

Council members did not decide when the issue will be discussed again.