Residents might soon see more food trucks popping up around the Myrtle Beach area.
The success of a food truck pilot program that was launched more than a year ago resulted in Myrtle Beach City Council unanimously approving the first reading of an ordinance on Tuesday that would extend the program another year and increase the number of food truck permits allowed from six to 20.
“I think that in this past year we’ve had nothing but very positive feedback,” Mayor Brenda Bethune said. “This industry has been very involved in helping in working in communities.”
Council members Jackie Vereen, Mike Lowder and Phil Render were not in attendance.
The proposed ordinance would authorize food trucks to operate in entertainment, medical professional, light manufacturing and warehouse manufacturing zoning distance. Currently, food trucks can only operate in highway commercial zones.
Trucks that are used at private catering events are defined under the ordinance as catering trucks and don’t need to apply for a city permit.
Officials also agreed to permit food carts to work under the same regulations as food trucks after planning director Carol Coleman noted that food carts don’t have an exact definition within the city code. Before, food carts could operate only during special events.
Additionally, the city is proposing decreasing the permit fees from $150 to $25 and shortening the distance food trucks can operate near existing restaurants from 500 feet to 300 feet. Coleman said the number represents the average city block distance.
“I want to see more opportunities for small businesses to get started,” Councilman Mike Chestnut said. “So, that’s why I want to support this.”
Market Common general manager Heather Gray said allowing food trucks to expand their sales area is a “huge injustice” to restaurants that pay rent, enlist employees and expense food year-round. It will reduce restaurant sales and make it harder to attract new business, she said.
“I just want to be cautious about moving them closer to the restaurants,” Gray said. “That 300 feet makes me very nervous.”
Bethune disagreed, explaining that data has shown food trucks boost restaurant sales. It is two separate sets of customers, she said.
“When we look at being a progressive city and revitalization, we have to consider some of these things that other cities do very successfully to attract people to our downtown area,” Bethune said. “I think the two can complement each other and it adds to what we’re trying to do with our revitalization and being progressive.”
The ordinance and new pilot regulations still needs to pass a second reading.