On the other hand, Hardesty argues, food trucks and stationary restaurants aren't necessarily in competition for the same customers, even when they're in close proximity to one another: "No food truck would complain that a bricks-and-mortar place opened at our favorite [parking] spot," he says.

Compared to the surrounding metro area, St. Louis city officials' pursuit of accommodation and reconciliation is the exception rather than the rule. The city of Clayton, for instance, categorizes food trucks under existing ordinances that prohibit selling goods on the street or the sidewalk. Though food trucks aren't banned outright — they may participate in vendor-friendly affairs such as the Clayton Farmers' Market — you won't find them outside an office tower during weekday lunch hours.

"We've talked to our restaurants — we have over 80 of them in a two-and-a-half-square-mile area," Gary Carter, who heads Clayton's Office of Economic Development, told Riverfront Times last summer. "They're concerned that they've invested in brick and mortar. Rent is above average in Clayton, on top of the recession and the investment they've made."

Mark Andresen

Location Info


Cha Cha Chow

St. Louis
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > Street Food

Region: St. Louis - South City

Monty's Sandwich Company

200 N. Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63102

Category: Restaurant > Deli

Region: St. Louis - Downtown

Guerrilla Street Food

St. Louis, MO 63102

Category: Restaurant > Filipino

Region: St. Louis - Downtown

Webster Groves, meanwhile, passed an ordinance last year restricting food trucks from the three areas the municipality has designated as "special business districts."

Roger Grow, the city's director of planning and development, says the matter arose after a cupcake vendor "set up in one of the business districts, right outside a restaurant. That's when we decided to examine our regulations."

Grow characterizes the ordinance as an exercise in fairness: In special business districts, on top of property costs and other unavoidable expenses, property owners pay additional taxes and businesses pay a 50 percent surcharge on their licenses. (The fees support publicly funded events within those districts.)

Kara Bowlin says the city considers its food-truck regulations a work in progress. "We are looking at other cities," she says, noting that "it doesn't seem like any one city has an excellent plan everyone's happy with."

Adds Bowlin: "We're fans of good food, whether it's from truck, restaurant or stationary vendor," provided that everyone plays by fair rules.

In the meantime, Cha Cha Chow hasn't given up on Broadway and Pine. The week after being evicted, the truck tweeted that it had found a spot that was 200 feet away from the nearest restaurant. To make sure, the Cha Cha Chow staff had determined the distance with a tape measure.

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