Wynwood would be stupid to drive food trucks away

By | March 7th, 2011 | 19 Comments

Wynwood property owner David Lombardi wants food trucks to trade in the curb for his field ... at a fee.

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.

19 Comments on “Wynwood would be stupid to drive food trucks away”

  1. 1 Revulu said at 12:25 pm on March 7th, 2011:

    Classic bullshit miami haterz drama. Everybody wants to be the boss of other people. Especially the ‘property owners.’

  2. 2 sixfeetaway said at 12:30 pm on March 7th, 2011:

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  3. 3 Leah said at 1:11 pm on March 7th, 2011:

    I agree with the person above. The developers own this town.

  4. 4 BigTimeJones said at 4:06 pm on March 7th, 2011:

    Always killing the goose that laid the golden egg. The artists and alternatives will simply find other spaces and Wynwood will become Lincoln Road. It’s called evolution.

  5. 5 MiamiGator said at 7:30 pm on March 7th, 2011:

    Jones, is Wynwood becoming Lincoln Road a good thing?

  6. 6 Taco Truck said at 8:31 pm on March 7th, 2011:

    It’s all about balance in Wynwood Art Food & Fun let’s show support and keep Food Trucks Truckin!!!

  7. 7 tastyrobinson said at 8:32 pm on March 7th, 2011:

    Well said. Good for you for voicing out. I am in total agreement with you in supporting the efforts of the presence of the mobile kitchens in Wynwood. What a refreshing way for folks to get out, enjoy art, and eat. People gather, art and food inspire. Neighborhoods, businesses, and events can benefit by the presence of these food trucks. If in fact, according to the Herald “some businesses have complained that the trucks block the sidewalk, crowd their entrances, and leave a mess at the end of the night”, is there not a positive solution to these complaints and concerns? Wouldn’t it benefit these businesses as well as the food trucks to work together? Perhaps this new addition to the food scene in the city of Miami is an opportunity for all involved to explore new ways of bringing more life to the streets for all to enjoy.

  8. 8 Jordan Melnick said at 9:16 pm on March 7th, 2011:

    @Miami Gator I’d say definitely not, and hopefully not an inevitable thing. EVery time i walk down Lincoln Road, I lament what it is — a largely undistinguished strip of brand name crap — compared to what it should be.

  9. 9 i hate everyone said at 10:26 pm on March 7th, 2011:

    it seems like at the very least, the truck owners should clean up the mess their patrons leave at the end of the night. if they cannot distinguish their patron’s mess from what was orignally there, they should clean it all up. this would make people happy.

  10. 10 Trucking Good Pizza said at 11:54 am on March 8th, 2011:

    Why can’t we all just truckin’ get along?

  11. 11 Leah said at 8:28 am on March 9th, 2011:

    Hm, I actually don’t agree with the Lincoln Road haters. Yes, Jordan, you’re right — there is a lot of brand-name crap. But before it was that, it was a run-down drug haven that had nothing going for it. At least now there’s a good spot to do people watching AND you know exactly how to avoid tourists!

  12. 12 Jordan Melnick said at 11:24 am on March 9th, 2011:

    Hey, a run-down drug haven has a LOT going for it. Seriously, I enjoy Lincoln Road (said so early on in this blog), but I can never shake the feeling that I am in a mall when I’m there.

  13. 13 sidewaysthinkher said at 7:20 am on March 15th, 2011:

    it’s embarrassing that we are even having this conversation. those food trucks are a godsend. the vibrancy, energy, relevance and “flavour” the bring CONSISTENTLY to Wynwood is a blessing. that night is a tourist night is it not a serious art night. so appreciate it for what it is. enjoy the vibration, connect with people, hear music and take in the landscape of an emerging community. and then if you want to see the art, make time during the week to visit galleries and see the art. how about we celebrate and cut the hate. those trucks are the heartbeat of other cities that matter.

  14. 14 Jordan Melnick said at 8:23 am on March 15th, 2011:

    @sidewaysthinkher Agreed, except I don’t consider Art Walk a tourist night. There are plenty of locals, maybe a majority.

  15. 15 myra wexler said at 9:52 am on March 16th, 2011:

    The Galleries and other business owners need to step up to the plate and put someone @their door, monitoring who is coming in. It does get crazy and messy with people taking food into the Gallery Spaces and worse yet, touching or disrespecting the art displayed. The City of Miami needs to show more presence too, for crowd control and placement of trash receptacles around.
    The turnout for the 2nd Saturday Wynwood Art Walk has definitely increased since the food trucks are on the scene. I love the Festival atmosphere myself. : )

  16. 16 Steven said at 12:17 am on April 28th, 2011:

    I should say as a Miami-area native living elsewhere, the tension between the food trucks and area businesses/restaurants is certainly not particular to the Miami area at all (it happens a lot in DC, as an example http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/2011/04/restaurants-food-trucks-duel-over-location). It’s reasonable to see how brick-and-mortar shop-owners may become resentful of the food truck drivers’ business model: the trucks pay low (no?) rent, and are therefore able to disproportionately (as compared to b&m places) invest in the quality of their product. One can make an argument that they’re obtaining the benefits of the Wynwood area (cachet, clientele, cool local spots, etc.) without paying local taxes or assuming their businesses’ externalities. Plus as soon as Wynwood does become Lincoln Road, they can just move onto the next stop, much more cheaply than those that have actually invested in the area.

  17. 17 Steven said at 12:20 am on April 28th, 2011:

    Larger point: wish Miamians didn’t assume the narrative of playing catch-up to the “bigger and better” spots.

  18. 18 MiamiGator said at 9:44 am on April 28th, 2011:

    “Plus as soon as Wynwood does become Lincoln Road….” please, I hope this never happens, keep South Beach in South Beach

  19. 19 Jordan Melnick said at 9:46 am on April 28th, 2011:

    @MiamiGator Agreed. But we may be hoping against hope. I predict N.W. 2nd Avenue will become Lincoln Road with a bohemian paint job in ten years.

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