JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - A battle over bites: food trucks in Jacksonville Beach have been the topic of many debates, and now they're closer than ever to becoming a reality.
Currently, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach ban food trucks. But in Jacksonville Beach, city leaders are close to approving a new ordinance that would allow them.
Many people are in favor of the food trucks. They think they're a great idea and could bring more people to the beach.
But others are worried they could take business from the brick-and-mortar restaurants.
"I think food trucks will bring people to the beach, and bringing people to the beach is good for business for anybody," said Andrew Ferenc, owner of the On The Fly food truck. "The food trucks may bring them out and they'll disperse to the other local businesses."
Last week, Ferenc was at a Jacksonville Beach City Council meeting, pushing to be able to expand his business to the coastal community.
Tuesday night, the City Council voted 5-2 in favor of the food trucks. Although it's not the final decision, the ordinance could pass in the next couple of weeks.
Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham voted yes, but he says strict regulations will protect everyone involved. It's likely the city will have a one-year test period.
"We are going to watch closely for the next year, see how it affects the businesses, and we're not going to do anything long-term that's going to affect negatively our business," said Latham. "But we think that it could possibly even enhance business downtown."
Ed Malin, the owner of Angie's Subs, says he's in favor of the food trucks and even wants to have some rent space on his property. But he's not happy with the way the proposed ordinance is written right now.
"It allows new restaurants to come in and not incur the costs that all the guys that are here today have to incur, and to me that creates an injustice," said Malin. "Therefore they can sell their sandwich at a lower price, and it creates an uneven playing field. That's unjust."
There are still some details up for debate before the final vote. Under the proposed ordinance, food truck operators would have to be on private property, rent from private businesses, pay city taxes and face inspections. They would also have to stay a certain distance away from traditional restaurants.
The City Council is scheduled to make a final decision on Feb. 3.
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