For now, food truck operators in Montgomery County don’t face the level of animosity from brick-and-mortar restaurants their counterparts in Arlington County or Washington, D.C. do.
They want to be ready just in case.
A group of some of the county’s most popular mobile vendors got together Monday in Rockville for a first ever informal meeting of Montgomery County food truck owners.
According to Curley Q’s BBQ owner David Cornblatt, the group of about 12 vendors discussed how to better communicate marketing strategies and routes and how to fight regulations such as the county’s “9 a.m. to dusk” rule.
The county does not permit trucks to operate past sundown, which effectively limits vendors to lunchtime hours during the winter months.
So far, though, Go Fish! food truck owner Missy Carr said she hasn’t seen police enforce many regulations, including the “ice cream truck rule” that requires a line of customers at a mobile vendor in order for it to remained parked.
“I have spoken with police officers. It’s not like they’re well-versed on food vendor licensing. I don’t think they’re worried about it. It’s not as big of an issue,” Carr said. “It’s kind of one of those things, you know it’s out there. You know it can be a problem at some point. It’s not a problem now so do you want to call attention to it?”
Some Bethesda brick-and-mortar operators have publicly expressed concern.
Jeff Heineman, owner of Grapeseed American Bistro + Wine Bar and Freddy’s Lobsters & Clams on Cordell Avenue, told Bethesda Magazine he’s worried food trucks could take away from his restaurants’ already slim profit margins if they grow in popularity.
Jon Rossler, owner of the Corned Beef King truck, said for now it makes more financial sense to serve at corporate office parks at prescheduled food truck events or farmers markets.
Parking is difficult to find in downtown Bethesda and there are no guarantees that customers will be waiting.
Rossler is working on launching a second food truck that might start serving Bethesda.
Cornblatt, who makes a weekly stop in downtown Bethesda, said he’s partnered with owners of established brick-and-mortars such as Black’s Bar & Kitchen and BlackFinn to hand out free drink coupons to their establishments to his food truck customers.
“I don’t want to be a thorn in anybody’s side. If anything, we want to do what we can to give to them,” said Cornblatt, who helped organize the meeting.
“I want to get organized so we can keep the peace with the brick-and-mortars,” Cornblatt said. “We don’t want to be chasing our tails and scurrying about.”