The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday November 30th

Food trucks may gain ground after public forum hosted by Chapel Hill

Will and Pop's food truck, owned and operated by Will (pictured) and his father Kenny Pettis, serves home-made lunch options while parked in front of the Dead Mule on Franklin Street.
Buy Photos Will and Pop's food truck, owned and operated by Will (pictured) and his father Kenny Pettis, serves home-made lunch options while parked in front of the Dead Mule on Franklin Street.

Fast food in Chapel Hill could take on a new meaning if residents voice opinions on a trend in food venues: trucks.

The Chapel Hill Town Council will discuss a proposal to amend the operating requirements for these establishments at a public forum tonight.

IF?YOU?GO

Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Council Chamber of Chapel Hill Town Hall
Info: townofchapelhill.org

Lex Alexander, the managing partner of 3Cups, proposed the change in requirements. He cited the increasing popularity of food trucks around the country, outdated local legislation and the quality of food that trucks can offer as reasons for the forum.

“If people think we’re too snooty to have food trucks, that hurts our rep,” Alexander said.

Although food trucks are not barred from operating in Chapel Hill, they must abide by nearly all the same regulations as brick-and-mortar restaurants, including adequate food storage and temperatures, said Tom Konsler, environmental health director for the Orange County Health Department.

Trucks must also get a license proving they abide by all zoning and health regulations and must operate on private property, as the town code currently limits sale of food in public sidewalks.

But some entrepreneurs have found ways to operate around the town’s strict regulations.

Will and Pop’s, a food truck co-owned by Will Pettis and his father, normally operates in Carrboro and uses Twitter to alert followers of its different locations.

Recently, the mint-green truck was in front of Chapel Hill establishments like Dead Mule Club, Bub O’Malley’s and Run In Jim’s.

“You still can’t park in Chapel Hill,” Pettis said. “The only reason we were able to pull this off is because we happen to know the owner here.”

Pettis parks in front of those businesses because regulations stipulate food trucks must operate in conjunction with a certified establishment. Mobile units must visit that establishment at least once a day for cleaning purposes.

Pettis said his business would benefit from relaxed regulations — an opinion he’ll voice by attending the public forum.

“This business is all based on foot traffic pretty much,” Pettis said. “There is a lot more foot traffic here than there is in Carrboro.

“We have a lot to say, and all we want is equal opportunity.”

Pettis said the ideal place to operate would be on UNC’s campus in order to capture the student market, where the lack of seating, heating and air conditioning might not be as much of a deterrent.

The town’s regulations do not apply to UNC’s campus.

“I think it would be a great idea to have them for kids who don’t want to walk to Franklin and who are tired of the dining hall,” said sophomore Courtney Coyle.

The council has posted the meeting’s agenda, the proposal and comments from residents on the subject on the town website.

“I would like to see a few food trucks, not only do they usually serve tasty food, and quickly, but also add to a more colorful downtown,” wrote resident Barbara Nettesheim, whose comment was one in a compiled list that was included in the public forum packet.

Overall the comments on the website support the initiative, showing only some concern about the sanitation of the establishments.

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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