Food Truck Fight Coming to Leesburg?

Phil Fust, owner of Loudoun Brewing Company in Leesburg, is eager to enlighten the Leesburg Town Council about the impact that prohibiting food trucks in town will have on his business and others like it.

“It would be devastating,” he put it simply.

Last week, Town Council members held off on further discussion of food truck regulations in town until after its August recess. Town Manager Kaj Dentler had asked the council during its Aug. 7 work session whether he should delay enforcement of the current regulations, which prohibit food truck operations, until the council decides to vote on a new policy, noting that microbreweries had been inviting food trucks to their premises to sell food to customers. With no clear direction from the council to forestall violations, the offending businesses will begin receiving formal zoning violation notices this week.

Reached Monday, Fust had not yet received his notice of violation, but had been told by town staff that it was coming. Dentler said there would be no enforcement of the violations until the council discusses the matter in September, meaning Fust and others will be allowed to continue bringing food trucks to their businesses without repercussions.

“As far as us having a food truck on private property, it seems to me a little over the top as far as them asserting their power into the decision making,” Fust said. “We’re going to address every possible option so we can continue to do what we’ve been doing. We will use every bit of discussion points and whatever we’ve got to do to make it amenable to everyone.”

Fust said that one of the biggest arguments against allowing food trucks in the downtown or elsewhere in Leesburg could be that they take away business from other restaurants in town. But, he points out that customers to Loudoun Brewing Company are also given information of area restaurants that would deliver to customers at the brewery.

“So, we are supporting those businesses as well,” he said.

Rick Allison operates his Pittsburg Rick’s food truck, as well as running the King Street Oyster Bar, and has a food truck for that business as well. He believes that removing restrictions on food trucks could improve business for the Pittsburgh Rick’s truck, as he often travels to events closer to Washington, DC, and Reston. He also said Leesburg is beginning to get a reputation as a “foodie town” so, while he doesn’t take a hard stance for or against extending the regulations, he does think welcoming food trucks could allow the town to be considered even more of a destination. He points to monthly food truck events at Reston Town Center as an example.

“They’ve made it work there without any issues, and Reston has way more restaurants than we do,” Allison said. Food trucks are “a nice alternative for someone to come get a quick bite.”

Currently, food trucks are not identified as an allowable use in the Zoning Ordinance, although food truck vendors may exhibit at special events by procuring a temporary license. The Town Council in the spring initiated amendments to the Zoning Ordinance that could authorize food trucks in the I-1 and PEC zoning districts, areas that lack many, if any, restaurant options.

Former food truck operators Timo and Nicole Winkel are all for free up regulations to allow for food trucks. The two currently operate Döner Bistro, which used to be run out of a food truck in the Virginia Village shopping center when the business was under its former name, Hamburg Doener. They’ve now had a brick and mortar restaurant on Harrison Street for almost 10 years.

The food truck at the Virginia Village shopping center helped them build a loyal following, and the duo was issued a town business license as itinerant vendors in 2006, although it appears that may have been done in error. But Hamburg Doener operated out of a food truck, violation free, for more than two years.

Although no longer operating a food truck, Nicole Winkel said she is in favor of the town allowing food trucks.

“Most food trucks are run by people who want to bring out their special recipes. They are and want to be different,” she said. “It adds to the variety and attractiveness of the area.”

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