A statement on the new downtown Monroe, NC food truck ordinance - Americana Beer Co.

If you would like to continue following this developing situation, please read our update article here.

With the recent implementation of a new food truck ordinance in downtown Monroe, we feel that we need to make a public statement to dispel any rumors that might arise as to why food truck cancellations are happening so frequently here at Americana Beer Co. Unfortunately, it looks like cancellations will continue to occur for the foreseeable future due to the new ordinance. We apologize to you, our customers, for this. These cancellations are not the fault of the food trucks, nor is it ours. We apologize for the long post. We’re not trying to stir up trouble here, but we owe it to you to explain the current situation. It’s time we say our peace on this matter.

We want to begin by making it very clear that we have always supported our local restaurant neighbors and will continue to do so. We want to see them succeed and the downtown area as a whole continue to grow and prosper.

Since day one, we have had table toppers on every table in our taproom, encouraging our customers to patronize our local establishments and order food from our neighbors. We have advertised when new establishments opened and actively promoted the downtown business community. We have always, and will always, welcome new options for the people of Monroe. We’ve never prevented customers from bringing in outside food, even when a food truck that we brought in and paid for a permit has been onsite. Yes, we pay the City for a permit each time we have a food truck onsite.

We have always abided by the City’s Food Truck Pilot Program, even when it expired some time ago and had yet to be reviewed for renewal or put into ordinance. We have filed the paperwork and paid the permit fees for our trucks for almost two years now for well over $2,500. These permit fees are non-refundable, and some trucks were denied, canceled, or issues arose, and we lost that money. We also paid for two parking spots along our building so the trucks could arrive in the afternoon and be set up and ready for customers during the dinner hour. Even with paying for these spots and permits and being approved for the truck, parking spots, and Permit, the police have been called on us numerous times for having the spots reserved for the very permits we just paid. The City refused to assist us in ensuring we had spots available for the truck even after receiving our payments. Despite these setbacks, we have managed and worked with all parties to ensure compliance with the Permit and the City.

We bring food trucks to Americana so that the people of Monroe and our customers have a variety of options and to open the town up to new customers who may not come to the area often or have never been to our City but are ardent followers of a specific food truck. Many of the trucks we host are Union County registered businesses whose owners are Union County or City of Monroe citizens. They pay taxes here and have their commissaries here as well. They pay property taxes on their trucks and are small businesses just like us.

As we have stated here and shown over the past two years of operation, we always promote and support our local restaurants. Still, we also want to give our customers the variety they have requested. Many customers look for these food truck options on holiday weekends, later hours into the evening, and on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays when many of our restaurant neighbors are closed. We have done our best to oblige those customer requests. We hear you; we have tried our best.

We were invited to two meetings, one in January and the other in March of this year. We attended the January meeting, and its purpose was to discuss the Food Truck Pilot program’s future as an official ordinance with no changes to its wording or rules. It would have been business as usual. Due to concerns arising from some restaurants, we recommended that the Program be altered so that all parties on both sides of the issue could work together to find a common solution and agree on its wording and Policy. All parties turned that down, and we were told that the Program would move forward with no changes, just simply having the current Pilot Program Policy in place.

We find out later that numerous meetings had been held with the General Services Committee, City Council, and the opposing parties to discuss overhauling the Program from its original format to include these items:

  • Restricting the time a food truck can arrive to later in the evening
  • Increasing the distance that a truck could be located from 100ft to 150ft from a restaurant (which we 100% agree with)
  • Not allowing food trucks on weekends
  • Potentially limiting the number of trucks allowed in town at once on both private and public property
  • Making the permitting process more difficult and cumbersome
  • Potentially raising fees for trucks that aren’t Union County businesses
  • Heavy fines and punishment should be imposed, and food trucks and host businesses should be banned should they do something against the Policy. “Putting “teeth” into it…” (<— exact words that a committee member stated)

All of this being said, we agree that there should be guidelines and policies to prevent food trucks from coming and going in and out of town with no rules. We would never want to see a food truck appear out of the blue in front of one of our local restaurant friends. That is why we supported, and still support, a policy that protects and allows everyone to flourish and have peace of mind. It would have been a professional and common courtesy to include us in any discussions so that we could inform the City about how we operate with food trucks and what we think would be fair to ensure the restaurants were not negatively affected.

We had no idea these Policy changes were being discussed in General Service Committee meetings, City Council meetings, or unofficial meetings between the local government and other parties from January to May. We could not attend the March meeting, but it seems the decisions on the new Policy had already been made to move forward to the General Services Committee and Council. From what we understand, there is no public discussion at the General Services Committee, so we would have had no say even if we had attended every hearing.

The point is, no one from the City tried to reach out to any establishments that procure food trucks about their thoughts or how it would or could affect us. Speaking for ourselves, we have now lost three food trucks that have canceled all the rest of their dates with us this year and in the future due to the City’s new Policy (including a wildly popular barbecue truck). We had three food truck cancellations last week alone due to the Policy and new requirements, and there has been one cancellation this week. The City gave us the new format on Friday, May 24th, at almost 5 pm. It being a holiday weekend, we needed more time to get the latest requirements and information the City requested in time to have the trucks approved since Monday was Memorial Day.

In the end, we genuinely apologize for this inconvenience. We are doing everything we can to continue providing our customers with the Food Trucks they have requested and enjoy. We hope this helps you understand our current situation and answers any questions as to why you will see food trucks less often here at Americana Beer Co. for the foreseeable future until this situation can come to an amicable end.