Whiteville open for business to food trucks, mobile vendors

WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) — A new city ordinance has gone into effect allowing food trucks and other mobile vendors to open for business within Whiteville city limits.

In a unanimous vote, the Whiteville City Council issued a new ordinance allowing food trucks and other mobile vendors to operate with some conditions.

Providers may operate in four zone districts: Office and Institution (O&I), Central Business (B-1), Highway Service Business (B-3), and Retail/Office Complex (B-4). A map of Whiteville’s zones can be found here.

The operating hours of the providers are determined by the zoning of the area in which the provider is established. Vendors in a B-1 or B-4 zone area may operate Thursday through Saturday from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. In a B-3 or O&I zone district Sellers may be active Thursday through Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m

The restriction on days and hours has been frustrating for some vendors, who say there are business opportunities every day of the week. One salesman says he has friends in the industry who have coffee and donut trucks, so earlier hours are best for their business to thrive.

Still, it’s an exciting day for food truck owners like Jimmy Spivey, who says he’s waited four years for this day.

“We get calls every day from people who want to host an employee day or a customer day,” said Spivey, who owns food trucks When Pigs Fly and Franks and Fries. “We couldn’t do that before, but now the door is open.”

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The regulation limits the number of permits awarded each year to just 20, with 10 of those reserved for food trucks and the rest being available to all other mobile operators. This was a change from the proposed regulation, which would have lumped both categories together for a total of 25 permits.

“My suggestion, and Councilman Williams’s suggestion, was to break them into two distinct classifications so that one would not be overcrowded and disadvantaged over the other,” Mayor Terry Mann said.

Each permit costs $500 and is valid from the time of purchase through December 31 of this year. For business owners planning to get a permit immediately, council members decided that the city will share the cost this year. Owners must reapply at the beginning of the new year.

The regulation also limits how far food trucks can be placed from existing restaurants and how long they can stay in one location.

Though there are concerns about the cost of the permits, leaders say it was the best way to level the playing field between food truck owners and brick-and-mortar restaurants.

“There are operating costs [a food truck] — buying the trucks, fixing them, and they pay property taxes on them, so they pay something, but they don’t have the same expenses as the brick-and-mortar stores,” Mann said.

While Spivey says he didn’t get everything he hoped for from this regulation, it’s a start. He says it won’t be long before his trucks are serving meals to Whiteville citizens as he plans to be first in line to get a permit on Wednesday morning.

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“I have a feeling the phone is going to ring a lot more,” Spivey said.

Spivey and Mann both pointed out that changing city ordinances can be relatively easy for executives. Mann says he and other executives will be watching how this is affecting other businesses and whether it is attracting more people to the city. If it seems to be in Whiteville’s favour, the city could be open to allowing more vendors to establish themselves.