I’ve said it for months now: Downtown Bradenton desperately needs a taco truck.
At a journalism conference I went to in Denver a couple months ago, a group of journalists from my company and I made a beeline for what was touted in online reviews as downtown Denver’s best taco truck. The carnitas tacos did not disappoint and the guacamole was on point. It also helped that the truck was strategically located in a walkable part of downtown Denver with live music, street performers and a wide assortment of food options.
If downtown Bradenton ever wants to achieve anything close to the scene I enjoyed on my lunch hour in Denver, regulations have got to change.
Yesterday I attended an invitation-only meeting of leaders from Manatee County’s culinary industry. The discussion focused on what needs to happen for the area’s food scene to rise to another level; to attract world culinary travelers; to keep Bradenton millennials hanging out in the downtown area instead of crossing the Skyway to St. Pete; and to drive more business to Manatee County chefs, who stand out from the franchises and corporate chains.
City of Bradenton PIO Tim McCann told me city ordinances, through parking restrictions, don’t allow food trucks to freely roam and serve downtown Bradenton. Food truck operators can park on private property if they make a deal with the property owner, but otherwise there’s not a lot of room for them to do business.
And according to the Manatee County government website, food trucks face the same rules in unincorporated areas of the county. They’ve got to find a suitable spot on active commercial property with the approval of the property owner, and they can’t park in the county right-of-way.
The challenges to food trucks posed by the stringent county and city regulations are on top of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation requirements. (Here’s DBPR’s guide to mobile food dispensing vehicles.)
Some people reading this post may say, “Well, Bradenton and Manatee County don’t have a lot of food trucks anyway,” but maybe we’d have more if the regulations made the county open for their business. After all, between 2010 and 2015, the number of licensed food trucks operating in Florida increased by 58 percent, according to data collected by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
In the district encompassing Manatee, Sarasota and eight other counties, the number of food trucks grew from 151 in 2010 to 256 in 2015.
I say it’s time our local governments get on board with allowing food-preneurs to drive the culinary industry in the right direction.