CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC)- Not a food fight, but a fight over food in Savannah. Should food trucks be allowed to operate in the city on a regular basis, and if so, what rules and regulations should be in place?
Two public meetings were held Wednesday afternoon to get feedback on the proposed food truck ordinance in Savannah.
They asked a lot of questions about what they would need to be up to code on health regulations, and the rules about cooking and storing food off of the truck in a separate kitchen area. Some think once they iron out all of the details, Savannah will be ideal for food trucks.
"It's a great food truck area and Savannah is about a lot of food and there's a lot of good food here so I think it would be great for Savannah," Rosetta Hines, interested in operating a food truck. “Well, it's a great tourist area and Savannah is about a lot of food, and there's a lot of good food here. I just hope they can get the rules and regulations all down so that they can have a smooth transition with the food truck industry."
"We know that this is coming. We just want to make certain that there's not a situation where I wake up one day and there's a food truck next to my brick-and-mortar restaurant less than 200 feet away," said Mike Vaquer, Georgia Restaurant Association.
That's been one of the biggest concerns by restaurant owners in town, but the city is taking that into consideration. According to the initial proposed ordinance, food trucks would steer clear of restaurants. Still, food truck owners said this ordinance would open up new doors.
"It does mean opportunity for us to get downtown, to be in an area where there's more people and tourists that would like to see this product and other products also,” said James Hodge, owner of Kona Ice Food Truck.
Vaquer represents 70 restaurant owners in Savannah who still believe there are a lot of kinks to work out. "There are zoning issues that need to be addressed, there are hours of operations issues that have to be addressed, there are locational issues that have to be addressed,” said Vaquer.
One Savannah resident told WTOC she's not against the food trucks, she just doesn't want them near her home. "I made my investment in my property because it was both residential and commercial and that does not equal non-residential," said Melissa Witherspoon Ralph, Historic District homeowner. “I’m a reasonable person. I think there's a time and a place for things, but enough with threatening the rights of the residents in "the NOG", North of Gaston."
The city is paying close attention to ordinances in other markets where these trucks are feeding the economy quite successfully.
"We've also looked at some programs that have failed, that haven't been as successful. So we're trying to find some things in both of those policies that will fit Savannah, so that we can have a bossed program that facilitates having the food trucks and doesn't impede on quality of life issues,” said Susan Broker, city of Savannah.
But for many of the food truck owners at Wednesday's meetings, this is more than a hobby or side-job, it's a means to provide for their families.
"Well there's been overwhelming support for having a program such as this, not just for having great food in Savannah, but for entrepreneurship opportunities. It's something for people that can't afford the capital investment of a brick-and-mortar restaurant to be able to have a food truck, sell their food, and make a good living,” said Broker.
You can give your feedback online, click here, or attend a public meeting listed below:
- Sept. 16, 2015
- Location: Aldergate United Methodist Church, 2020 Tennessee Avenue, Savannah
- Times: 2:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m.