Cannon Beach is exploring ways to possibly permit food trucks within city limits.
Food trucks are prohibited in Cannon Beach, with the exception of operating at the farmer’s market, as they currently fall under the city’s ban on “outdoor merchandising.” But the city is reexamining its ordinance after multiple presentations from Bob Neroni, owner of EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School and food truck advocate, who initially came to the council months ago to find a legal way to operate a food cart in his own parking lot on the days his restaurant closes.
At a work session Tuesday, city councilors directed staff to work with Neroni to create and circulate a questionnaire around the restaurant community as a way to gauge interest.
While a rule change would stand to benefit him personally, Neroni believes food trucks are “a growing opportunity” that would improve and diversify Cannon Beach’s culinary scene.
“It’s an untapped, niche market,” Neroni said.
Food carts have long been a contentious issue in both Seaside and Cannon Beach. Part of what has kept food trucks at bay has been the fear they would create competition for brick-and-mortar businesses.
Some, like City Councilor George Vetter, fear allowing food trucks could allow transitory businesses to “cut in during the gravy season” of summer to make a profit without having to pay rent like their stationary competition. Food trucks could also take up parking spaces when the city most needs them.
“They would want to be here when parking is most valuable,” Vetter said.
City Councilor Mike Benefield expressed concerns that food trucks don’t fit the aesthetic character of Cannon Beach, and that there were few places in town that could accommodate a “pod” of trailers.
“I love food trucks, but it just doesn’t fit here,” Benefield said.
Neroni said his proposal centered mostly around allowing businesses with parking lots to operate and manage food trucks on days or times of day when their businesses are closed. This would alleviate competition and parking concerns. It was the proposal he floated to other restaurant owners in town, he said, and it was supported.
As for the competition, Neroni said there was a similar concern when the city was contemplating a farmer’s market.
“And we’re doing well with the farmer’s market. It’s not taking away business,” he said.
Overall Neroni wants the city to work with the restaurant industry on a solution that allows food carts in a highly regulated way. Reviewing aesthetics, location, seasons of operation and limiting the number of permits the city can issue are all factors the city can regulate and enforce.
Neroni suggested the city form a committee to help design community standards for food trucks like it did when the farmer’s market was first conceived.
“This needs to not just be fair for one, but fair for all,” Neroni said.
While some hesitations remained, the council came to a consensus to look into ways to accommodate the steadily growing trend of food trucks at a future work session.
“I think food trucks could be a nice addition as long as it’s done in the Cannon Beach way,” City Councilor Nancy McCarthy said.