It's not easy opening and making a success of your own business. 90% of new businesses fail within the first year. And despite downtown Birmingham needing all the business it can get, which is obvious from all the empty spaces and lack of traffic there is in the city center, it seems Operation New Birmingham is perhaps too worried about filling those empty spaces to give a chance to a mobile food truck, one of the country's hottest food trends.
Last week, word spread like wildfire via the Web about a blog by Jason Parkman, the owner of Spoonfed Grill, a mobile kitchen offering lunch to hungry businesspeople along with catering. After several months of serving lunch for downtown customers several days a week, he got a cease and desist order because he was parking in a loading zone. Although this had been the suggestion of a parking enforcement officer, Parkman wrote that he understood that the city was within its rights to stop him from operating in a public right of way. What he took issue with was a memo from Operation New Birmingham President Michael Calvert complaining that the Spoonfed Grill was unfairly competing against brick-and-mortar restaurants -- yet the ones he named were not in the immediate vicinity of where he had been operating, and in fact he was coming to this area at the request of people working there.
You'll see ONB's response below. Parkman has since removed his online rant, but we think he raised some valid points -- ONB would do better to try to work with someone trying to offer an innovative and trendy concept downtown instead of just summarily shutting him down. Here's hoping the online furor gave them food for thought, and Parkman can work out something with city officials to find a place to park his Spoonfed Grill. (Updated 8/15/2010 following the removal of Parkman's blog post)
ONB responds, but this still doesn't address ONB's, specifically Michael Calvert, president's, complaints about Spoon Fed being unfair to brick and mortar restaurants. Also this begs the question, why doesn't ONB develop some guidelines to help out food truck vendors, rather than just trying to shut them down?
According to City officials it was not and the City asked the operator to move his truck. City ordinances prohibit private business from operating in a public right-of-way without obtaining the approval from the City of Birmingham. ONB encourages food truck operators, restaurants owners, property owners and other stakeholders to work together to explore options for changing the existing ordinance.
The Birmingham News' Bob Carlton dug into this and reports that Calvert's position "have evolved" since he wrote his initial memo, but basically, it sounds like there are no city permits that even exist that would allow SpoonFed Grill to do its thing parked on the street.