Much has been made (including by me) about the rise of the Miami food truck. For a while now, it seems you can spot at least one of the city’s ever-growing number of mobile kitchens parked off of the side of the road anywhere you go, and many have celebrated this roving addition to the local culinary scene.
But another, somewhat dramatic narrative has been riding shotgun with the success story from the beginning. Not long after everyone found about the Biscayne Triangle Truck Roundup (BTTR), a gathering of almost the entire fleet of local trucks off of 109th and Biscayne, complaints from within the adjoining neighborhood forced the event to relocate (to Johnson & Wales, last I heard).
Then there was the public split – melodramatically played out on Twitter – between the trucks and their would-be organizing body, the Gourmet Food Truck Association, which reportedly had an accused child-molester as a volunteer.
Now there is a dust-up between Wynwood property owner David Lombardi and Jack Garabedian, owner of Jefe’s Original food truck. Lombardi and several Wynwood gallery owners have a problem with Jefe’s and other food trucks lining the streets during Miami’s Second Saturday Art Walk. “Some businesses have complained that the trucks block the sidewalk, crowd their entrances, and leave a mess at the end of the night,” according to the Herald.
Garabedian accuses Lombardi of “trying to monopolize where the food trucks park, only on his property since he owns most of it.” Lombardi owns a field off of N.W. 2nd Avenue – Art Walk’s main artery – where food trucks and vendors have congregated as the Wynwood Market during Art Walk since November. The food trucks can set up on the field for a fee ($75 during Art Walk, $35 otherwise).
If the drama polluting Miami’s food truck scene like a cloud of exhaust seems surprising and/or ridiculous, consider that mobile kitchens are controversial in other cities, particularly among brick-and-mortar restaurant owners who see the trucks as a threat to their businesses. People also complain that the trucks operate without paying property taxes.
I can sympathize with residents who bristle at a food-truck roundup popping up in their neighborhood once a week, snarling traffic, making a lot of noise, and leaving behind a mess. (I don’t know if this is what happened at BTTR’s original location, but I believe it was the neighborhood’s concern.)
As for the Wynwood conflict, Lombardi and the galleries would be crazy to thumb their noses at Jefe’s and company, who are undoubtedly an important factor in the recent surge in Art Walk’s popularity. That said, I’m not sure asking all the trucks to gather in Wynwood Market is so unreasonable, particularly if Lombardi waived the fee in recognition of the crucial role the trucks play in drawing crowds to Wynwood for the monthly event. If he did, no one could credibly call him greedy, and his stated motive of striving to tamp down Art Walk’s carnival atmosphere for the sake of the galleries would ring true.
Even then, the thought of an art gallery –- especially a Miami gallery — complaining about a crowded entrance seems preposterous. If the scent of grilled cheese means several hundred more people are going to visit your space and see your artists’ work than otherwise would, then I advise you to politely invite the truck to park closer.