Food trucks would benefit downtown New Albany

One of the popular food trucks that operate in the New Albany area.
June 23rd, 2020     Opinion

Not too many years ago one could go to downtown New Albany and find 10 places to eat between the river bridge and Railroad Avenue. And those places offered a variety of dining options. Finding a parking space on a weekend evening became a welcome, but real, problem.

Things have changed.

We still have good places to eat, but not as many downtown. Some closed over the years and some of those that remain are only open limited days and hours.

We can’t force new restaurants to open downtown, but we can welcome those that choose to do so.

And that’s where an ordinance covering food trucks, now in the planning stage, comes in.

Food trucks are gaining in popularity and can fill a need for variety and convenience – particularly downtown.

People who work in the downtown area may not always have time for a full sit-down meal. They may want something within walking distance. They may need to run errands, are looking for some variety or perhaps simply want a light lunch.

Food trucks obviously draw shopping traffic on their own as well, which could supplement the number of those who are already taking advantage of the variety of stores downtown and help offset money being spent at the big box and so-called shopping center businesses.

They also really offer little, if any, competition to the brick-and-mortar establishments; they’re just different types of choices.

Lack of parking space still remains a problem at times in the downtown area but food trucks could operate daily on the library parking lot, or the expansive parking area at the former Fred’s store purchased by the city.

They could even remain on private property if maintained well.

We already allow food truck-type operations at special events and there seems to be no objection to that.

Of course food trucks need some regulation.

Food and public safety are concerns and the trucks do not need to park literally anywhere they choose, although they should not be limited to a few days a week of operation. They need to be accessible without impeding traffic of any sort. They also need to pay their fair share for the privilege of operating a retail business just as any other would. They don’t have to be connected with existing restaurants; vendors of some types of foods can be entirely self-sufficient within their trucks.

City officials are now working to simplify and bring up to date a model ordinance from several years ago that will fairly encourage food vendors and see that they operate in a safe, responsible manner.

One part of that earlier ordinance prohibited food trucks in the downtown area and that should no longer be the case. Food trucks can be an asset to our community and that includes our historic downtown.

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