Food trucks are nearing the finish line in the long saga to set up shop in Myrtle Beach.
On Tuesday, Myrtle Beach City Council unanimously gave first approval to the law that would allow food trucks on private properties along Kings Highway, U.S. 501, parts of U.S. 17 and parts of 3rd Avenue South. Trucks could also park at the Convention Center, Myrtle Beach Train Depot and Myrtle’s Market.
The ordinance, which will go back to Planning Commission before a final city council vote, would allow 12 permits for trucks to operate in Myrtle Beach. Each permit allows a truck to register for two locations in the city and costs $150.
Drew Basilicato, operator of the Trojan Cow food truck, has been a staunch advocate of expanding the mobile eateries into the city and said they’re helpful “for entrepreneurs who may not have the capital to run brick-and-mortar restaurants.”
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The food that many trucks serve now is higher quality than what might come to mind for some consumers, Basilicato said.
“It’s not the 80s, with just the roach coaches and hot water hot dogs,” he said.
The Myrtle Beach area already has hundreds of restaurants, and Mayor John Rhodes has been particularly hesitant about allowing the trucks, which have minimal start-up costs compared to traditional restaurants. He voted for the initial food trucks approval, but successfully argued that 20 permits—the original suggestion—was too many.
“I am very protective of the investors that come in Myrtle Beach and invest in bricks and mortar,” he said.
Earlier this year, another set of investors also suggested a different food truck project: a group of immobile food trailers that would be permanently parked on the former J. Edwards restaurant at 2300 S. Kings Hwy. Developers also plan to build a new, full-service restaurant at the site.
Tony Case, who is working on the project, urged city council to instead pass an entirely different measure on Tuesday—one that would have let him put the immobile trucks at the site. City staff and the planning commission have been mulling that option since Case first approached the city in February.
“The food trucks are nothing more than an atmosphere created, but we can’t serve out of those restaurants unless they meet building code, and we can’t put a food truck out there with wheels right now, so we were caught in between two code problems,” Case said.
But Councilman Wayne Gray said it wouldn’t be fair to stop the larger pilot program in favor of Case’s concept.
“I really find it distasteful that you want to prevent competition and opportunity for other entrepreneurs that would do something pretty similar, in my opinion,” Gray said.
If the ordinance approved on Tuesday is enacted, multiple members of city council said, Case could just use that law to put real trucks at the site.
Before passing a final ordinance, city council will have to grapple with the hours of operation for the trucks. Gray suggested putting no limits on when trucks could operate, and Basilicato said that might allow some entrepreneurs to capture the late-night crowd of people leaving bars and clubs.
But on Tuesday, Councilmen Mike Lowder and Phil Render said they were opposed to letting the trucks operate at all hours of the night.