By Natalie Caula | ABCNews4.com
MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) – Food truck and restaurant owners are used to hot kitchens, but emotions sizzled Monday at a Mt. Pleasant planning committee meeting. Mobile food vendors defended their businesses, as restaurant owners cited unfair competitive advantages.
The planning committee considered a pilot program for the food trucks that would create comprehensive regulations for the trucks, currently not in place. As the popularity of the trucks grows, town staff members began researching and studying proper regulations.
“We get a lot of calls of people interested in doing it,” Mt. Pleasant Planning & Zoning Director Christiane Farrell said. “Almost two to three calls a week.”
The proposed pilot is a one-year program based on common regulations used in other towns. At the end of the year long program, more permanent regulations will be developed based on feedback, according to town officials. The pilot includes requiring a town license and DHEC approval for the trucks.
Tony Page owns Page’s Okra Grill on Coleman Boulevard. Page told the committee he would like to see a limit on the number of food trucks allowed in town.
“I’m all for food trucks provided there’s no competitive end provided,” Page said.
Page also questioned the liability issues for the town. But, Martha Walters, who owns the Magic Cheese truck, says most of the food truck owners have liability insurance and says the trucks are a benefit to the community.
“It’s not going to take over restaurants or replace restaurants,” Walters said.
Red’s Ice House general manager Steve Carroll told the committee he wanted to make sure they had their finger on the pulse and assured the food truck owners, it’s not a war.
“It’s not us against y’all. It’s the town has to find a place for it,” Carroll said.
But, it’s a war, the town and restaurants might have upon them. For now, the town committee decided to send the issue to the planning commission, where a public hearing will take place and more input will be considered.
Monday, plenty was said by both restaurant and food truck owners. Papa Zu Zu owner, Tom Keagy spoke from the podium to the committee and addressed the food trucks owners.
“If you want to open a restaurant, open a restaurant. If you are in the restaurant business, you know the fatality rate. Take a chance. Put it on the line like we have. Don’t just get a truck,” he said.
Carolina Creole food truck owner Jeff Filosa said running a food truck is almost harder than running a restaurant and says he doesn’t feel they are taking business away from the brick and mortar businesses.
“On my best day I did $700,” Filosa said.