Food trucks take advantage of downtown lot

City-owned lot opened this week

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Food trucks were once seen as a threat to downtown businesses, but now the city of Jacksonville is welcoming them with a parking lot of their own.

The lot on Forsyth and Main streets opened this week, allowing the trucks to set up for the first time.

There's quite a few options for those grabbing lunch downtown, including tacos, barbecue and sandwiches.

Corner Taco owner Chris Dickerson was set up at his usual Friday location in Riverside, but on Monday he tried something new, moving his airbus to the new downtown food cart lot. He didn't know if he'd get the same kind of response, but was pleasantly surprised.

"On Monday, it was a little slow at 11 (a.m.)," Dickerson said. "We had a little trickle of people, then by, honestly, by 11:15 (a.m.) we had a line. And honestly, from 11:15 (a.m.) til about 1:45 (p.m.) we had a constant line wrapped around the sidewalk. It was probably 20 people deep at any point and time."

Dickerson said his food truck saw a 40 percent jump in business Monday compared with its other lunch locations throughout the week.

The city says each day of the week, a different food truck takes over the spot.

On Thursday, Monroe's on the Go, a barbecue food truck, brought its wings and sides downtown. On Friday, it set up on the Southside but said the downtown location is now one of its top producing lunch spots.

"We've gotten so many emails and phone calls, 'When you coming back?'" owner Keith Waller said. "So our only problem now is figuring out how we're going to get it into regular rotation and not take away from a place we've already built."

Right now food trucks are allowed to set up on specifically zoned property with permission from the property owner and permits. For many food trucks the permits were too expensive.

But this city-owned lot is one of a few that allows food trucks to set up without special permits. So the city worked with the trucks to make it happen.

"We are just hoping that it adds some excitement, makes people want to come downtown, makes people want to be downtown," said Jack Shad, a public parking officer for the city. "Downtown should be the place where the most exciting things are happening."

The trucks will still pay for the spaces, but at least they can be there.

The said there will be even more trucks on the lot next week.