Food truck gathering cooks up crowds to support mobile vendors

ctruman@herald-leader.comApril 27, 2012 

Can you smell what Lexington's food truck consortium is cooking?

The Blue Grass Food Blast, a group of food trucks and food-truck supporters, converged on a vacant lot at Main and Vine streets on Friday to urge the city to ease regulations on mobile food vendors while selling bunches of food and sporting "Free the Food Trucks" T-shirts.

Some people walked to the event, at the vacant site where CVS once planned to build a drugstore opposite Thoroughbred Park, but many drove in, endured long lines and sat on blankets on the gravel lot to show their support. Some tailgated, eating sandwiches with names such as the Louisville Lip while perched on the rear gates of their SUVs.

The vendors, who plan to be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, also were gathering signatures on petitions to present to the Urban County Government urging more leniency for food trucks to sell their wares.

Since January, a city task force has been considering a plan to allow mobile food vendors to rotate among several locations downtown. The group's deliberations continue at 1 p.m. Monday with a meeting in the fifth-floor conference room at the Urban County Government Center at Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Mark Jensen of Mark Jen sen Catering, who is on the task force, said food trucks are needed to make downtown a more lively and walkable area. They bring people without time to go to bricks-and-mortar restaurants out of their office buildings for lunch, he said.

Sean Tibbetts, owner of the Cluckin' Burger truck, was hoping to get as many as 2,000 signatures on the petition urging city government to loosen restrictions on food trucks. The petition also is available on the Cluckin' Burger Web site, Cluckinburger.com.

The food truck owners say cities with a food truck presence have a more urban ambience, with people on the streets sampling various offerings.

Jensen said the food trucks "are just going to intensify the density of people enjoying our downtown."

Tibbetts said, "Being able to grab something quick and head back to a desk — that's our goal market. The brick-and-mortars won't be hurt by that."

Customers Matt Jordan and Pamela Henderson of Lexington came to the food truck rally because "in our travels we've been to larger cities with looser food-truck laws, and we've enjoyed them," Jordan said.

The pair dined on barbecue sandwiches from the Up in Smoke truck.

Wes McIntire got a bratwurst with peppers, onions and mozzarella from one of the vendors, which included Harper's Hot Dogs, Red's Comfort Foods and La Petite Creperie.

Gesturing toward the tents the mobile vendors had set up, McIntire said, "I think it would be a nice thing to sit out and have something new in Lexington."

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer already is on the food truck bandwagon. On Tuesday, a food truck event organized in Louisville by Fischer's office was so successful that some of the 10 trucks participating sold out.

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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