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Wilmington opens the door for more food trucks

Wilmington is ready to give food trucks a chance - launching a pilot program to bring more of the rolling food vendors into the city Monday.

The program allows food truck operators to start reserving one of a handful of street parking spots set aside by the city for their use.

The program is starting with three daytime locations available from 7 am to 3 pm - by the train and bus stations on the 100 block of French Street, on the 400 block of Delaware Avenue next to H.B. Dupont Plaza, and at the intersection of 6th and Market near The Queen Theater.

That 6th and Market location will also be available at night from 6 pm to 1 am.

City Councilman Robert Williams sponsored the ordinance creating the pilot program. Williams says he believes the food trucks will draw new people out into the city.

“Somebody may have brown bagged today and said, you know what, I want to go try Kapow – I’ve never had one of their tacos," said Williams as he stood next to the Kapow truck parked at 6th and Market.  "They’ll keep the brown bag in the fridge and come out.  That gets them out on our streets, walking up and down"

And Williams says that is good for the city and businesses alike.  He understands there is some concern about the trucks competing with existing restaurants and says that’s why the city is starting with a pilot program.

“We just have to keep an eye out that we don’t have any kind of negative impact.  If there’s a negative impact, we’ll have to reevaluate," said Williams.  "If restaurants say they’re going to close, etc. because of this we might have to consider moving the food trucks to other areas."

Councilman Williams says when the pilot period is over city officials will examine if the trucks hurt nearby restaurant business, but he and others, like City Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz,  expect the program will work.  It was suggest by the city's Young Professionals Task Force, which looks for ways to draw young people into the city to work, play and live.  Shabazz says food trucks are just one way the city is responding to the task force and the young people it seeks to attract to the state's largest city.

"[Starting this program] lets everyone know that Wilmington knows what is happening.  We know what our people need and are conscious of the new innovative business styles that are happening in today's society," said Shabazz.  "All of the doubters will see these new, innovative moves are vital to our growth."

If the pilot goes well, Shabazz and Williams would like to see the trucks move into other areas of the city , including Trolley Square.

Food trucks using city parking spaces will be required to obtain a city mobile food service license at no cost- then pay a 22-dollar per day fee for a space – plus a small online transaction fee to reserve that spot. The space fee is the average of what one of the spots brings the city for vehicle parking each day.

KaPow Food Truck’s Wit Milburn says being able to pick and choose what days to set up shop is great news for truck owners

“It makes it very flexible for us.  So, we can say - you know its going to be a payday week so more people will come out and pay, let’s get the spot for the week.  Or if there’s an event like the Jazz Festival, you can come out and do lunch if you’re not a part of (serving) the Jazz Festival," said Milburn.  "It’s great not having to be in the same spot everyday.”

Milburn adds that making some city parking spaces available creates a new market for food trucks and should help new ones find the customers they need to survive and thrive.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for nearly three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.
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