Las Vegas Sun

March 2, 2015

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Food (truck) fight: Could a turf war incite new regulations?


Leila Navidi

Nuisance or necessity? Fukuburger has been invited back to the spot off Paradise Road where they were initially unwanted.

Gourmet Food Truck Fest

Curi Kim takes orders at The Chairman truck at the South Point Gourmet Food Truck Fest in the parking lot of the South Point in Las Vegas Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. Launch slideshow »

A couple of years ago, two guys with a tricked-out food truck serving gourmet burgers parked their mobile kitchen off Paradise Road, hoping to catch the hungry late-night gay bar crowd as well as patrons from the Double Down Saloon. Legally, they could do this. And when a nearby business owner, who also served food, called Metro to the scene, Metro saw the paperwork and agreed.

Too late. Colin Fukunaga, co-owner of now-famous food truck Fukuburger, didn’t want to stick around where he wasn’t wanted. He took his business to Chinatown, made a name for Fukuburger, and then expanded into other parts of the valley and opened a full restaurant in L.A.

But that’s only the beginning of a larger story playing out in cities across the country as the food truck/restaurant turf war grows. It’s a battle fueled by brick-and-mortar restaurants complaining that food trucks parked nearby steal customers without having to pay the same taxes and overhead.

Officials in other cities have discussed everything from restricting duration of food truck stays and mandating minimum distance from restaurants to banning them from commercial districts and giving neighborhoods the say on the number of mobile vendors in their areas.

Earlier this month, the Las Vegas Planning Commission, driven by protests from a select group of restaurant owners, proposed changing the distance — from 150 feet to 1,350 feet (the equivalent of roughly four and a half football fields) — that food trucks must be from stationary restaurants.

But should that proposal move forward, who will really lose out? After all, food trucks aren’t just grabbing passersby. Their social media efforts draw packs of hungry locals to areas where they park, and they often feed crowds late into the night after many restaurants have closed.

In Boston, the mayor praised food trucks for enlivening public spaces, and the city has devoted links to food trucks on its website.

Fukunaga, who says he now gets permission from restaurant owners before parking, shares the same belief: “Some people don’t get what brings business, what inspires people and what keeps people in an area. We’re up for the bigger picture. You got to realize this is helping.”

This story first appeared in Sun sister publication Las Vegas Weekly.

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  1. The brick & mortar restaurants have a valid point. They've invested money into their location and have a right to defend it against marauding food trucks. Food trucks don't help anyone else but themselves and they could care less about other restaurants in the area.

  2. Maybe in other locations this would be different where the restaurants close, but here in Vegas, I don't care WHAT TIME OF NIGHT IT IS, you can get any type of meal you want. Just like brick and mortar restaurants, they should be taxed on the square footage of their trucks and the monthly revenue they generate.

  3. The brick & mortar restaurants do NOT have a vaild point. They simply want a monopoly for their area and they want to use crony capitalism to acheive it.

    If that were the case, what would stop a food truck from demanding the same thing from other food trucks? Where would it end?

    When there is competition and freedom of choice, the consumers always win.

  4. The FUKU truck is back on Paradise on the weekends! There are no other food establishments in the area that are worth mentioning, besides the 7-11. Usually, food trucks work in tandem and are a benefit to stationary businesses.

  5. There appears to be a misconception by some that the Food Trucks might not be paying their fair share.

    Most of them have licenses for three cities, the county and the state. Brink and mortar have state and their one city or county business license.

    The food trucks pay sales taxes and employee taxes just like the others do.

    The food trucks pay a ton of fuel taxes since they buy Hundreds of Dollars of fuel tax each week. Many of the trucks pay more in fuel costs then Brick and Mortar stores do for rent each month.

    They also have to work out of a Brick and Mortar commissary that also pays taxes and has licenses.

    In reality they pay everything a Brick and Mortar restaurant does plus some.

    Should they park in front of a brick and mortar restaurant, no but as long as they keep a fair distance there should not be a problem. Now all involved have to agree what that fair distance is so it works out for everyone.

  6. The brick & mortar restaurants DO have a point; it's hard to get a good location and and fix it up. Also, brick and mortar places are known and have established reputations, whether good or bad. These trucks just show up out of nowhere at busy places without having to pay the lease of a premium location, then they disappear.

  7. @Richard Dorsey - Exactly! A brick & mortar business pays a premium for a location or perhaps they did the research to determine that a location is underserved, so they start a business trucks can invade and pillage a location's business, leaving the brick & mortar restaurants defenseless. They don't know what's coming and they lose business.

    If food trucks want to park in remote locations, that's fine. However, they should stay away from brick & mortar restaurants.