Restaurants worry how food trucks will affect business in Park City
Food trucks may soon be rolling into Park City.
After the state amended laws regarding municipalities’ ability to regulate food trucks earlier this year, Park City is allowing trucks registered with the city to post up on public property and on private property wherever restaurants are permitted. Trucks would still need the go-ahead from the owner of the property they would be parking on, but the change lifts a critical barrier for food trucks.
Some Park City businesses are welcoming the change while others, mostly restaurants, worry the trucks might bring increased competition and would operate on an unfair playing field.
Up until recently, food trucks were only allowed in town during special events, said Hannah Tyler, a city planner. Individuals and organizations could hire food trucks to serve at parties or other events.
Jonathan Weidenhamer, economic development director for Park City, said there are a handful of permits given to food trucks every year for events such as the Sundance Film Festival.
That changed this year because of the state’s new law, which restricts cities from regulating a food truck through zoning ordinances. If an area is zoned for restaurants, food trucks are allowed.
The city spent six months determining how best to comply with the change while not stepping on the toes of businesses. Weidenhamer said one of the first big concerns from restaurants was that food trucks might not pay local sales taxes. That was quickly addressed by the city. Food trucks are now required to have a business license to operate in Park City and to pay local sales tax, Weidenhamer said.
Restaurants were also worried about trucks not being permitted from the Summit County Health Department, which the city addressed as well. Trucks are now required to get permits.
Penn Kinsey, owner of Blind Dog Restaurant, spoke at city and county meetings about her worries that food trucks would be paying less into the community than restaurants.
“As brick and mortar, we have to collect sales tax, resort tax and restaurant tax, and that adds up,” she said.
Since food trucks do not have a permanent location, they also won’t be paying property taxes, she said.
“I just want everybody to be represented fairly,” she said.
She said city officials seemed to listen to restaurants’ concerns and compromised where they could, but there were some decisions that were out of their hands.
She is particularly concerned about events where food trucks will inevitably park and serve at. If food trucks are in the parking lot of sporting events like the Triple Crown Fastpitch World Series, for instance, players and spectators will be less likely to drive down the street to eat at restaurants like Alberto’s and Sammy’s Bistro, Kinsey said.
Organizations in town that host events have a different opinion, though.
Amanda Angevine, general manager of the Park City Ice Arena, is in support of the food trucks coming to the rink because it currently has no concessions and there are no restaurants in the surrounding area.
“We’re looking forward to this as an amenity that we can offer people coming to public skate,” she said.
She said the ice rink has been looking into food trucks for a while, but it has not been able to have them until now. She plans to reach out to food trucks soon to bring them in.
Angevine will have to go through a unique process to bring them in, though. Since the ice rink is public property operated by Park City, each food truck will first have to be pre-qualified by the city before Angevine can consider allowing it at the rink.
The city plans to put out a request for proposal soon to see which food trucks are interested in doing business on public property, including the area envisioned as an arts and culture district and near the Bob Wells Plaza on Swede Alley, Weidenhamer said. In a draft of the RFP on the city’s website, minimizing “competition with existing business” and overall approach, including the ambiance and menu, are included in the criteria.
“I am going to give more points when I go through that process if you are affiliated with a local business, if you are not competing with the businesses in the neighborhood, if you are dealing with health and safety issues and if you are willing to comply with higher level standards for building code review,” Weidenhamer said.
He said the city is looking to have one or two food trucks in the Silver King Coffee area and some in the downtown area to offer late-night food so they are not competing with existing dining options.
Property owners who want to have a food truck on their property will have to file an administrative permit, Tyler said. The city would look at access, particularly parking, and grant the permit accordingly.
Weidenhamer said the city is not yet sure how strong of an interest there will be for food trucks to come to Park City. He has heard that some might not be able to make it up Parley’s Canyon.
Taylor Harris, owner and general manager of Salt Lake City-based The Food Truck League, said that is the case for some trucks, but not all. He said food trucks have wanted to come to Park City for the last few years but were denied because of the city’s tight regulations. The league is an association of food trucks that helps connect trucks with communities in Utah.
“Park City is probably one of the harder cities to go to because they have been a little slower to adapt to some of the regulations and changes,” he said.
Although food trucks are ready to tap into the Park City market, Harris said because of some truck’s inability to drive up Parley’s Canyon and the city’s relatively small population, there is no caravan of food trucks waiting to make its way to town.
“Park City is not going to be overrun with food trucks,” Harris said. “The population is just not big enough.”
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