The vibrancy of Casper’s city center is the fruit of a longtime labor by city leaders to attract residents downtown. Their efforts are paying off; many Casperites now work, shop, drink and eat downtown. And the arrival of food trucks to Casper, and particularly downtown, signals that the city has done something right.
But the ongoing debate about the presence of those trucks downtown could harm the vibrancy that the city has worked so hard for.
The Casper City Council recently decided upon an ordinance governing food trucks in downtown Casper. And that couldn’t have been easy. So we’re glad they tried to reach some sort of compromise.
That said, we still have some concerns.
The new ordinance will allow up to 10 food trucks in a given downtown block every month, and the food trucks are required to pay a $25 fee to operate downtown. And while we’re encouraged by the effort to reach a deal on the divisive issue, it seems the only side that came out penalized were the food truck operators. That’s unfortunate.
Because the food trucks could have been an opportunity instead of a problem. We wish that downtown vendors had all come together to take advantage of the influx of people visiting the city center, with its recent addition of the David Street Station. The plaza and the ongoing makeovers downtown have been integral in pushing residents to patronize downtown business.
And with increased business comes increased competition.
Some brick-and-mortar establishments expressed concern that the food trucks inhibited their business by taking up limited parking and hiding their shops from view. But with prominent marketing strategies (made all the more financially feasible with the advent of social media) business wouldn’t have to suffer just because the store sign is temporarily out of sight.
Those establishments would do well to utilize the foot traffic attracted by the presence of a food truck instead of getting hung up on the challenges. For every car that doesn’t stop because a sign isn’t visible, there is a group of pedestrians who wants to grab a burrito and hit the shops. For every tourist who doesn’t see the window display behind a food truck, there’s a Casper native who will stop in on their way back from grabbing a bite.
And like we’ve said before, parking downtown is already easy – even during popular events. Reducing it by two or three spots shouldn’t make a difference to most businesses. And if it does, their problem isn’t food trucks.
We’re also left to wonder how this ordinance will affect the brand new plaza, which will be expanded this summer. Food trucks parked around and throughout the plaza won’t be taking parking from any brick-and-mortar establishments and so shouldn’t be regulated as such. The purpose of the plaza is to increase downtown traffic, and it could be a perfect hub for the food trucks.
Some food truck vendors have been put off by the controversy and have chosen to move on to greener and more food truck-friendly pastures. And we don’t blame them. This debate and the resulting regulation hurts local entrepreneurs. It limits variety for hungry patrons. And it diminishes the vibrancy of Casper’s city center.