Groups are lining up in support of and opposition to food trucks, the trend that's become a part of Downtown dining.
The mobile cuisine vendors offer additional menu options and convenience for urban workers and residents and have been a rapidly growing trend in Jacksonville and across the country.
Yet, for some people, the vendors pose a threat to established businesses in the competition for market share.
Without highlighting specific arguments for or against the concept and being cognizant that there eventually might be legislation introduced concerning the matter, here's a look at where the City, Downtown Vision Inc. and JAX Chamber stand on the issue.
In July, the City Office of Public Parking implemented a single-site "Food Truck Area Program" that allows a food truck to rent two spaces in the City's parking lot at Forsyth and Main streets.
A food truck is limited to a one-day reservation in any one week for $13 plus sales tax per day. That is the cost to rent two parking spaces for a day, according to the ordinance code.
The food truck operator is required to have a valid Local Business Tax receipt and a Transient Merchant Permit issued by the Tax Collector, which requires a valid food-service license from the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants.
The operator must carry workers' compensation insurance as defined by Florida statutes as well as $1 million in commercial general liability insurance and $1 million in automobile liability insurance.
Before a food truck can set up shop in the parking spaces, the operator is required to provide certificates of insurance approved by the City Risk Management Office.
No alcohol may be served under any circumstances by a food truck. The lot and adjacent sidewalk area must be completely clear of all trash and litter before the food truck leaves the parking spaces.
Downtown Vision Inc. is the nonprofit organization charged with marketing and advocating for Downtown. It is funded by an additional ad valorem tax levy on Downtown property owners.
The organization's board of directors in March voted to support a position statement limiting the presence of food trucks in the urban core. Allowing the mobile transient vendors to offer services weekdays during lunch would take away business from permanent vendors, DVI Executive Director Terry Lorince said at the time.
After the vote, DVI published a position statement proposing that food trucks could complement Downtown's nightlife scene by "operating in the entertainment district and near existing bars" from 11 p.m.-3 a.m.
DVI also suggested establishing a monthly food truck festival event "held Downtown during the week at lunchtime."
JAX Chamber Director of Downtown Engagement Tony Allegretti said food trucks add vibrancy to the neighborhood and offer options for patrons. He said food trucks are located in "gaps" between traditional brick-and-mortar food vendors.
"The Downtown landscape is pretty well regulated. Food trucks are not on every corner," said Allegretti.
Allegretti said more than 100 restaurateurs are members of JAX Chamber, including seven food-truck businesses. He expects the number of Downtown food vendors in both categories to increase over time.
"There is some really conducive pricing for ground-level retail. It's not as trendy, but there is opportunity," he said. "The chamber supports entrepreneurs and business growth. Hopefully, everyone can win."
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