Food truck owners and restaurants disagree

Food truck owners and restaurants disagree over downtown Knoxville presence

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Food truck owners and downtown restaurants are in disagreement over the possibility of bringing food trucks downtown. Food truck owners and downtown restaurants are in disagreement over the possibility of bringing food trucks downtown.
"It is an unfair advantage for someone to be able to come in and set up a restaurant during prime time without the commitment that we've all put in down here," Bella Luna co-owner Donna Parang said. "It is an unfair advantage for someone to be able to come in and set up a restaurant during prime time without the commitment that we've all put in down here," Bella Luna co-owner Donna Parang said.
"We're selling two very different products between what the mobile restaurants sell and what the fixed location," said KMRA director Johnathan Borsodi "We're selling two very different products between what the mobile restaurants sell and what the fixed location," said KMRA director Johnathan Borsodi

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Food truck owners and downtown restaurants are in disagreement over the possibility of bringing food trucks downtown.

The Knoxville Mobile Restaurants Association wrote a letter to the city last month saying that allowing food trucks downtown would be beneficial to the community.

"Allowing small businesses with lower capital requirements to compete for market share will bring young, smart, educated, and idealistic entrepreneurs to our area," KMRA director Johnathan Borsodi wrote. "More importantly, fostering business models that allow local producers to market their produce to local consumers will help mend the disparity between the urban and rural communities and create a more enlightened food culture in East Tennessee."

Borsodi told 6 News the group believes that food trucks and restaurants can coexist downtown.

"We want to work with the city to address everyone's concerns," Borsodi said. "We're selling two very different products between what the mobile restaurants sell and what the fixed location. They're offering fixed table service, the full sit down meal experience. Our customer is someone whose looking for a quick meal, get back to work get back to their desk."

However, several downtown restaurants said the food trucks don't belong downtown.

An attorney representing several downtown restaurants also wrote the city, speaking out against the presence of food trucks downtown.

"Food trucks have little, if any, investment in the community and do not provide a stable tax base for the city," Keith Stewart wrote. "Restaurant owners have committed time, resources, and millions of dollars reviving Knoxville's downtown. It is unfair to allow food trucks, with little or no investment in downtown to poach the lunch and dinner business at their leisure."

Stewart told 6 News he only represents some, not all of the restaurants listed in the city as being opposed to food trucking coming downtown.

Among those in the list are Bistro at the Bijou, Trio Café and Bella Luna.

"It is an unfair advantage for someone to be able to come in and set up a restaurant during prime time without the commitment that we've all put in down here," Bella Luna co-owner Donna Parang said. "We're not against food trucks. We do think Knoxville needs a vibrant food truck scene our only issue with that is that we're already saturated downtown. We feel like there are plenty of other places for food trucks to go."

The city of Knoxville is looking closely at a food truck pilot program that was started in Nashville in April 2012.

The program in Nashville bans food trucks from being within 150 feet of a full-service restaurant or within 15 feet of a bus stop or an intersection curb.

"We're not Nashville," Parang said. "We have lost office employees downtown. We have a very event and weather driven downtown."

"We might not be as big as Nashville but I think food trucks are a cultural thing and I think we have every bit the culture that Nashville or other city does," Borsodi said.

The city said it hopes to have a draft of the pilot program proposal sometime this fall.


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