[St. Petersburg, FL] Symbiosis is defined as “close and often long-term interaction between different biological species.” This came to mind as the Citizens United case has conferred ‘personhood’ on corporations.
In St. Petersburg, predominately corporate interests have been acting as white cells, attacking the rights of food trucks and mobile vendors to operate in the city. This attack is being led by the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.
To help them with their defense, the St. Pete food truckers have recently received a training session from the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit libertarian law firm with a chapter in Florida. The Institute will be representing the food truckers in their quest to insure food trucks can operate in downtown St. Pete.
You may be familiar with the Institute for Justice already – they are currently taking on the City of Hialeah – near Miami – for cracking down on street vendors on Valentine’s Day and creating 300 ft. exclusion zones surrounding brick and mortar businesses that sell a similar product.
According to Sam Dudding of the Fire Monkey Food Truck, the St. Pete restaurant owners want a 500 ft. setback from any established brick and mortar restaurant. With 120 restaurants in a 6-square-block area downtown, the 500 ft. setback effectively eliminates food trucks from downtown with the exception of the pier approach road.
A family enjoys some Fork In The Road at the Food Truck Stop last month
Dudding told Sunshine Slate that, “The restaurateurs also want to “level the playing field” claiming that food trucks have an unfair advantage in that we don’t pay property taxes and they do and therefore we have lower costs.”
“This isn’t a valid argument,” says Dudding. “Yet several city council members latched on to the point and wanted to impose fees on food trucks steep enough that they would simulate the trucks paying a property tax.”
“This is unconstitutional and well beyond the scope of government,” Dudding says. “Government should create an environment where business can flourish – not impose protectionist and anti-competitive restrictions that favor one business over another.”
There is a rally planned to support the Bay-area food trucks and mobile vendors this Saturday at the First Unity Church, located at 460 46th Ave., in St. Petersburg. This is in advance of the City Council’s planned meeting March 22 to deliberate the issue again.
Each side will have 15 minutes at that public meeting to present their positions.
But in Winter Park (next door to Orlando), we are seeing brick and mortar restaurants, food trucks and mobile vendors working cooperatively. For months now, Tom and Jerry’s Lounge has been hosting a Food Truck Stop on Thursday nights, providing live entertainment, utilities and restroom facilities.
At that location – which is actually in unincorporated Orange County – food truck operators reported early on that Orange County code officers were coming around telling them that they were going to get shut down soon, but the vendors have not seen or heard from them lately.
Now, Fork In The Road Culinary Productions and Linda’s Winter Park Diner are teaming up to host the Fairbanks Food Truck Pod. A popular breakfast and lunch gathering spot, Linda’s Winter Park Diner has been a fixture in Winter Park for decades.
The Fairbanks Food Truck Pod will feature Fork In The Road (previously reviewed here on Sunshine Slate), 5 Gastronomy (also reviewed on Sunshine Slate) and Fish Out of Water, every Wednesday night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., at 1700 West Fairbanks Ave. in Winter Park.
While corporate interests and foundationed merchants in both St. Pete and Hialeah are using political and lobbying muscle to attack food trucks and mobile vendors, it appears that in Winter Park, we are seeing a demonstration of close interaction between the two species.
Symbiosis between the two, it is possible.
By: Harold Rodgers/Sunshine Slate
Lead image: John Markum & Olivia Samano said they are having a little bit of everything from all of the trucks, Food Truck Stop, Winter Park, February 23, 2012 (photo: Lance Turner/latuphoto.com/Sunshine Slate Images)