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Restaurants, food trucks fighting over downtown diners

City Council seeks suggestions from 3 restaurant owners, 3 truck operators

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Downtown is about to become the scene of another food fight, with restaurants and food trucks squaring off before Jacksonville City Council.  

Even though there are laws in place about where food trucks can operate, there have been complaints from restaurants that the trucks have an unfair advantage and are ruining established businesses.

"Downtown is a picnic and we have too many ants," restaurant owner Tom Thornton said. "They can't have both. They can either have brick-and-mortar stores that made a financial commitment and the time commitment to the city, or they can have a carnival."

 

Thornton was appointed as one of three restaurant owners on a six-member special panel to help find a solution to the dispute. The other three members are food truck operators.

Jacob Bander, who with his brother operates a food truck, said it’s not that simple. He agreed that some changes need to be made, but believes that trucks and restaurants can exist side by side.

"It's just a different business model. It's just what it is. It's not just that one has an advantage over the other. It's that if you have a good product and you know how to market their product and you know what your niche is, you will succeed," Bander said.

Bander said he knows that rent for a food truck is cheaper than a fixed restaurant, but said the restaurants also have a huge advantage.

"We live in Florida with very unpredictable weather. When it rains, we don't serve. People are going to the restaurant when it rains because I can sit inside and sit in the AC," Bander said.

The two sides will meet at City Hall next week. The councilman who oversees the panel said he knows something needs to happen, but he is not sure where the process will end. Eventually, there will be new legislation on this issue that will go before the full City Council.


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