Food Trucks Then and Now: The Issue of Progress in Lubbock

Wolfforth Water Expo Saturday, May 9th 10:30am – 4:00pm Frenship High School Food trucks, kids area, speakers, gardening tips, etc… Food Truck Attendees: La Picosita, Twist’d Texan, Jody’s Texas Pit BBQ, Blue Oasis Progressive… that can sometimes be a dirty word here in Lubbock. But last weekend’s Free the Food Trucks event seemed to suggest […]

Wolfforth Water Expo
Saturday, May 9th 10:30am – 4:00pm
Frenship High School
Food trucks, kids area, speakers, gardening tips, etc…
Food Truck Attendees: La Picosita, Twist’d Texan, Jody’s Texas Pit BBQ, Blue Oasis

Progressive… that can sometimes be a dirty word here in Lubbock. But last weekend’s Free the Food Trucks event seemed to suggest that Lubbock wants to be, well, a little more… progressive. Before we start printing any “Make Lubbock Weird” t-shirts, let’s talk this out.

To me, the fact that an estimated 1,000 people want to wait out in the hot sun on a Sunday afternoon for an hour for a pizza tells me there is a desire, a hunger if you will, in the community. And I don’t think that hunger is necessarily for a food truck taco. I believe Sunday’s event (Free the food trucks in June 2014) was indicative of a desire in Lubbock for a scene, or a place where action occurs.

Naysayers may argue that free food can always bring a crowd. But let’s be honest… I don’t know if most people even knew if there would be free food or how much of it at the event. To be blunt, it was not well executed. However, I don’t think this one event should determine whether we should or should not loosen restrictions on food trucks.

The City of Lubbock has a responsibility to protect the lives, health, and property of its citizens. But we need to somehow bridge the gap between that responsibility with the changing needs and vision of the community. Events like the food truck expo and growing popularity of the Downtown Farmers Market highlight to me a community expanding its identity and creating new markets.

We have entrepreneurs right now ready to serve you lunch but they are looking for a new platform to do business. The issue is not food trucks – it’s that often Lubbock is its own worst enemy in allowing new concepts and ideas to flourish and succeed. If I get tacos from a food truck will that take away business from a restaurant? Maybe. Or could a concept like a Food Truck Sunday at a local park give me the impetus to go out to lunch on Sunday with my family (and thereby generate sales tax revenue) when I’d otherwise stay at home?

Why is downtown such a ghost town most weekends? I wondered that one Saturday night while having dinner at Italian Garden. The place was packed and all I could think was, hey people want to be here. We want cool places to go and cool things to do. We don’t want to be well… boring. It’s bubbling right there under the surface in the form of a food truck line, but the people of Lubbock are expressing a desire to commune. They want a scene. They want action.

The Lubbock Chamber of Commerce and the Imagine Lubbock Together steering committee put together a citizen-driven Vision & Strategic Implementation Plan, which has some really great and exciting ideas.

Let’s not let that vision collect dust. Let’s help our business community succeed with new and innovative ideas to Lubbock. I challenge our local leaders and elected officials to help our city progress and facilitate these visions of the community. This isn’t about liberal or conservative, too much government or too little. It’s about having a bigger vision for the community.

Instead of thinking of how we are regulating and slicing our existing pie – let’s think about how we can make a bigger pie (or maybe add some new flavors). We need all hands on deck to get there, and that may mean reviewing our Code of Ordinances or making proactive changes to help revitalize areas of the community (like the infrastructure improvements to 34th Street) rather than being in a reactionary position (receiving petitions on food truck restrictions).


 

Update: As of December 2014, the City of Lubbock allows food trucks with permits. From the Lubbock AJ:

To operate a food truck, the city requires mobile vendors to complete and submit a $250 application for a Mobile Food Vending Permit, as well as complete all the required inspections through the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Environmental Health Department. The permits are valid for one year. To get a permit, according to the city, vendors must provide blueprints of equipment placement, fill out an application, schedule a risk assessment and pass an inspection. They must also pay a fee ranging from $100 to $350 based on risk assessment, which is based on fire safety, health safety and security.Temporary and sample permits are also available.Once the license is obtained, there are a few other restrictions, as well. The venders are only allowed to operate between the hours of 6 a.m. and 3 a.m. and must not be at a location for longer than four hours.They are also not allowed to operate in residential areas or within 200 feet of the primary entrance of a brick-and-mortar food establishment.

What do you think?
Check out pictures of the event here.

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18 comments

  1. Ari

    I agree, Katie. This ‘borig city’ needs something that will build community every week. What better than food, summer and a crowd? Apparently, the restaurant lobby is trying to shut this down. It’s ‘bad for business’, y’see.

    I hope this comes to fruition before I leave Lubbock this Fall. I’ve seen this city grow up and have great memories here. I want this to transpire.

  2. Randy Hendrix

    You have my vote!

  3. Stacy E.

    We love the Food Truck Race on the Food channels. Food Trucks are all over San Antonio and their food is just as good as a fancy restaurant at times. The city needs to expand their thinking and learn that growth is good even if it is Food Trucks. They are regulated just like the restaurants. They have to be inspected like they do the fair or any other outdoor activity serving food. I understand the restaurants not liking the competition. If the restaurant has good food then they don’t have to worry about the Food Trucks. I can tell you now there are a few restaurants in town that might step up their acts if there is competition. I knew a few that we haven’t been going back to because there food has been awful the last few times we have gone. It will be great for the outdoor venues to have food that normally wouldn’t.

  4. agreed! I’ve only been here 3 years and I’ve seen this city grow tremendously, not just in size or population but in the desire to make something happen! To be recognized for our art and music and so much more. I’ve heard the horror stories of how the Tornado Jam, which brought in 30,000 people!!!!, was ceremoniously shut down. Crazy, Lubbock should embrace progress and embrace the great things THEY ALREADY HAVE GOING ON. Not letting food truck operate would be a huge mistake, waiting in 3 hour lines at BJs or some other chain on a weekend is proof positive we need more food options, and home grown local businesses are something that a conservative community should embrace and support with open arms!

  5. Shontal

    The turn out was amazing! I would say so amazing that the lines might have even kept some people from stopping, like me. However, I think the food trucks are an awesome idea and the places they could be utilized are endless. There are soccer, baseball, softball, t-ball and little league football almost every weekend, and I know I would have enjoyed a food truck option for eating while enjoying the kids games. Not to mention the, movies and music in the park events, and don’t forget the Christmas parade. The list is almost endless! Come on Lubbock, I am sure if we can support all the new restaurants coming into this town in the coming months, that we can support the food truck industry as well!

  6. Anicia Harriman

    I was not in town for this event, I also only learned of it the day or two prior. Lubbock needs to change, grow, get out of its box! You have my vote as well as a business owner, my support in however I can help.

  7. Heath Brown

    I believe that Lubbock does not give a flip about local business. They are looking elsewhere, that is why we have too many franchised business in our city. Look they are building way more steak n shakes than needed. We got marked from Movato for being that. WE have no culture because the city doesn’t allow that and the LDFM is growing because the locals want better food and not franchised crappy food.

  8. The issue is the city is doing nothing for small businesses in downtown Lubbock. Nothing to attract them and once they’re here nothing to support or assist them. Its going to take a grass roots movement of entrpreneurs to take a chance together to move into downtown Lubbock and set the standard. As owner of culture clothing we need more businesses around us, hell even competitors at this point in the game are welcome. Somebody make the move like Giorgios, Emma’s, Italian Garden, have and let’s set the standard together.

  9. Larry Simmons

    A very interesting column, and not the first I’ve read on this subject. Where does one go for a contemporary experience in Lubbock? One thing about the food truck debate is just what are the issues? Is the city ordinance unfair or just a little narrow minded and short sighted. Is it the fee structure or that fees are required to be a food truck?
    The City of Lubbock has wonderful facilities and property that are available to all and any one citizen of the city to use, providing that they meet the requirements. Easy concept. We rent the street for the Downtown Farmers Market every Saturday. 21 markets this year is over $1200. It’s the price we pay for believing in the event. We knew it going in. If a food truck sets up on private property there is no fee. They pay under $200 for a mobile food permit that is good for an entire year. The issue is the use of public property-streets, parking lots, buildings, that seems to be the key problem. The Dallas Food Truck court is a privately owned facility. Are we asking for the city to provide a spot for this, or trying to generate enough interest to get individuals on board and solve these problems? I’ve never found an issue or a rule/regulation that prevented me from doing anything worthwhile. The food truck movement is worthwhile. As for a “business conspiracy” against them-there may be grumbling but I’m sure there is every time another out of town chain comes in and takes our money out of state. There is no organized backlash against trucks. Think about that the next time you hear about LPD directing traffic at the newest chain’s overflowing drive through-your money is not staying here. Food trucks and farmers markets-basic micro-economic development. These are just some of my opinions-I believe in the future Lubbock, the past gives you a foundation and we need to find and cultivate the folks who can build that community.

  10. Larry Simmons

    I’d like to add one more item, last time I checked a truck could set up on city property or right of way for a yearly fee of $250, and City Council approval. Is that still correct

  11. Katie

    Great comments everyone! Larry – I think you all at the DFM have proven where there is a will there is way. And you are correct – its not like the food trucks can’t have a business now. I think if anything Sunday proves they can. I think to me its more of the idea the that Lubbock does a good job of bringing new “big box” businesses/franchises to Lubbock, because obviously there is a market for that here. What I hoped to convey is that there is equally a demand for local-focused/micro business climate as you mentioned, and rather than quiet that demand how can our city answer that demand in way that helps city coffers and provides a new experience for Lubbock.

  12. Annette Ruocco

    Lubbock definitely needs a kick start. The potential there from its inhabitants is endless but they need a venue. I’m a former New Yorker and now a Floridian but my granddaughter lives there and the biggest treat is a trip to Target! Look at Austin and San Antonio – come on – you got what it takes to take them on.

  13. Larry Simmons

    Katie I thought the article was great. We really appreciate the kind words form everyone about the LDFM, it is a labor for the community. I’d like to be involved in the food truck issue and it’s importance to downtown. Small steps from the folks with boots on the ground make the difference.

  14. Vicky

    Larry: GREAT comments!!

    I would love to see food trucks as an addition to the DFM, and other local venues here in Lubbock. The Depot district has such potential, once there are other businesses that see the beauty of the area. Nail salons, boutiques, etc. Imagine being able to hang out in the Depot district from breakfast until game time – what a GREAT way to entertain out of town friends. The opportunity is there, let’s just hope that Imagine Lubbock and those tasked with the development of Lubbock keep it in order, and not put the cart before the horse – like rail from TTU to the Depot District. It’s not a case of “if you build it, they will come” Houston had a 7 mile rail to nowhere and it truly hurt the many businesses along the rail until it was completed. Baby steps are needed, and they must be carefully thought out before they are taken. Godspeed to the Food Trucks. You are welcome in MY VISION OF LUBBOCK!

  15. Amanda marr

    What happened to our zoo? We were going to have one we even had a tiger that amirrillo was “holding on for us” what happened to it? We can’t even get our homeless shelter up. This town is to big to be so boring for families

  16. Jon

    Wow — I’m so glad to see this going on in Lubbock – along with uber! What a huge step forward for the city! I worked in downtown Lubbock a few years back. I liked downtown, but there were no meaningful options for lunch. I would have KILLED for a food truck or two! As for Uber, man, I wish that would have been around, too, for those nights I wanted to dress up and head over to the Double Nickle or La Diosa! I could not be more proud of Lubbock and these really cool changes. Businesses shouldn’t be afraid of such changes because of competition, because such additions will only add to the overall appeal of the city and attract more people to come and visit and maybe even stay. Great job, Lubbock! Can’t wait to get there in the fall to see all of these exciting changes!!

  17. Suzanne Allen

    You have my vote! I’m looking to move to Lubbock… the more progressive, the better. Way to go!

  18. Cecilia Jobb (Zephyr)

    Hi there!
    My name’s Cecilia with Hub City NORML, which stands for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. We’re a local non-profit organization that’s purpose is to educate the public on the healing and medicinal properties of Cannabis and how prohibition is a failure.
    We have our Annual Fundraising & Awareness Event coming up Sept. 26-27th and are looking for food vendors that would like to park outside of our events to feed our crowds and keep them from having to leave the locations. Plus, we’d like to help a local company out with business and promotion as well as bring awareness to our cause. We’re flying in a musician from Nashville to preform both night at different locations. Business should be good! =D
    Please let me know if you aren’t booked that weekend and what we might have to do to assure your truck to be there for us. It’s going to be an awesome event and we have people from all over Texas coming in and as far as Arizona and Colorado as well. It’s going to be great! Hope to hear from you soon. I appreciate your time. Have a wonderful day!

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