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Commission Unanimously Denies Siesta Key Food Truck Permit

Commissioner Nora Patterson said the Gumbo Mojo truck is too large for Siesta Key.

Updated 3:37 p.m.

The Gumbo Mojo food truck is going to have to find somewhere other than Siesta Key to sell its food.

The County Commission unanimously voted Tuesday morning to deny a temporary use permit for Gumbo Mojo on Canal Road near Calle Menorca.

Simply, the 20-foot by 8-foot truck is too big for Siesta Key, said Commissioner Nora Patterson, and she doesn't want to see food trucks on the key and thinks there would be traffic and parking issues.

"I'm not hoping you'll find another location on Siesta Key," she said. "There are other areas in the county that you'll be very successful, and this one is just really rough. I have trouble with it on Siesta Key, period—something that large."

Commissioner Carolyn Mason also said Siesta Key isn't a good fit.

"I don't think the village is the right location for this unlike just down the street from us where there are food trucks," Mason said of the Suncoast Food Trucks. "I believe they are more suited for an urban setting like just down the street on Ringling."

Thaxton said that the use of a public right of way for a private purpose is not appropriate in Siesta Key Village.

"I'm not a big fan of imposing on that very delicate balancing act that could disrupt all the work has had there," he said of resolving conflicts between businesses and between residents and the businesses. "I don't think it's appropriately located there with respect to either residential or existing commercial businesses."

Gumbo Mojo owner Tony Bonasto offered restaurants and the county a compromise saying he would not operate while the restaurants are open—either early afternoon or after 10 p.m., but still be open for the bar crowd.

"Why not seriously consider offering any and all advantages on visitors to our community and place less emphasis on discouraging and quashing local residents from offering small businesses like ours in the village?" Bonasto asked.

The issue with staying open for the bar crowd is that if the restaurant serves hard liquor, the kitchen is required to stay open until closing time, said Siesta Key Village Association President Russell Matthes.

"There's a lot of food business after 10 p.m.," Matthes said.

Matthes also told the commission that parking, traffic and competition were key reasons why the association oppossed the permit, adding that the association's businesses contribute special taxes to maintain the village's appearance.

"We're not afraid of competition, but if their overhead is substantially lower than ours, they potentially could undercut our prices," Matthes said. "We feel like that's not an even playing field."

Andrew Seely, owner of Flying Sliders and Suncoast Food Trucks, said these food trucks give people a chance to try something different while visiting town.

"We can only enhance the business on Siesta Key, Sarasota County in general, because we're bringing people to try something new," he said.

Dave Stewart, owner of Captain Curt's Crab & Oyster Bar also felt like competition needed to be even.

"I'm all for free enterprise; however, we need to do it on a level playing field," Stewart said. "We pay a lot of money in taxes and square footage for our operation."

Patterson also said she would not want the food truck to be near Siesta Beach, fearing the truck would take away sales from the concession stands there.

Bonasto also anticipated most of his business, if not all, to be walk-up after folks get out of their car at the municipal lot on Canal Road and walk to the village.

"I don't understand how our vehicle is, being placed where it's proposed to be placed at, proposes any worse parking situation than already exists," Bonasto said. "...They park in public parking or legally park on the street. We're not going to be inviting people to park illegally just to come to our business."

The Arlington, Va.-based National Street Vending Initiative told Patch Monday that governments should have a narrow scope of determining where to allow food trucks and that governments protecting businesses is not one of them.

Claudia Murray, an attorney for the Institute For Justice Florida chapter, said after watching the hearing today, she believes the commissioners need to understand what food trucks are and are not.

"It's obvious that the commission has a fundamental misunderstanding of what a food truck is," Murray told Patch. "...With all those fundamental misunderstandings, it's inadvisible to make policy blindly like that."

Murray says food trucks aren't a sit-down restaurant on wheels placing tables and chairs everywhere unless it's at a rally—it's more of a hot dog cart function.

She understands the concerns about public safety, but that wasn't an issue in the proposed location, Murray said, especially with the walking from folks in the rental properties nearby and the folks on their way to the village from parking lots.

"Food truck entrepreneurs want to go places where people can safely eat their food and buy their food," she said. "I think there's usually a misunderstaning where people think there's 20 people in line. It's not like that. People walk up to eat or get their food and walk away."

One study that the National Street Vending Initiative looked at is how the presences of the trucks also help deter crime, Murray pointed out. That could be of use on Siesta Key where a rash of car burglaries this summer victimized several people who parked at beach accesses.

"You have eyes on the street," she said. "If these people set up beside a parking lot, it would be more difficult for them to break in, knowing there are people around."

If Sarasota County—or the city—would want to make the area a better one for food trucks, she's willing to help.

"We're happy to help them revise their laws to make it more business friendly," Murray said of Sarasota County.

Stay with Patch for more updates to this developing story.

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Spencer Davis October 23, 2012 at 05:13 PM
OK, so we know where the next campaign contributions will come from. It's a mobile food service establishment - not a roaving nightclub - for gosh sakes, where is free enterprise?
Robert October 23, 2012 at 08:11 PM
A sad day for Amercian entrepreneurs. County Commission members: the heavy hand is bad for business, and that is bad for our country.
Mark Gabrick October 23, 2012 at 09:04 PM
We're not afraid of competition, but if their overhead is substantially lower than ours, they potentially could undercut our prices," Matthes said. "We feel like that's not an even playing field." What if restaurant "A", can negotiate a better lease than restaurant "B"? Is that too unfair? What if I have a better relationship with my suppliers in Restaurant "A" and can negotiate lower food prices than my competition? Is that too unfair?? Maybe everyone should pay the same for everything. What silly communist-like logic are we dealing with here? Seriously, what country is this clown from? I bet if we learned from history, we'd also find that the horse saddle maker was up in arms back in the early 1900's when the automobile was introduced. "It's unfair, we're not selling saddles anymore!! Mr. Ford is taking all of our business". I can tell you as a food truck owner, I have no intention of operating a food truck forever. My goal is to as quickly as possible move into a brick & mortar. But because of lack of big funds, I am doing it the old fashioned way, lots of hard work, saving every penny and providing a far better food experience than my competition. How is that unfair? I'm not asking for government assistance, I'm not borrowing money from banks (they sure aren't lending), I'm supporting my family, I'm buying local and I'm putting the money earned back into the "local" economy". Gov't should not interfere with ones Pursuit of Happiness. ~ The Hogfather BBQ
Dawn Oliveri October 23, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Food trucks will take away from the beauty and elegance of Siesta Key. They are so many other places that the food truck can sell right off the Key. There is no reason to have a food truck in the village.
sharon October 23, 2012 at 10:59 PM
I assume Siesta Key is a wealthy area. It would be a terrible shame for those rich people to have to see a food truck--the horror of it!! And, my goodness that little boy on the beach that just wants a hot dog, well, his parents better be ready to shell out some money to take him to a restaurant, no hot dog for him. roflmao
sharon October 23, 2012 at 11:00 PM
"There goes the neighborhood"
sharon October 23, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Good luck to you, I hope you are able to achieve your plans.
Hawkeye October 23, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Did anyone truly expect a different outcome?! Let's see, you have one owner who owns the Hub, The Cottage and Blue Q, then further west down the street, you have the same owner who owns Gilligans, the Daquiri Deck and the peak Easy.. everybody connecting the dots here? It has absolutelynot a single thing to do with traffic. Frankly, I'd love to see ahalf dozen food trucks in the Siesta key Parking Lot.. You know, republicans were always for corporations. They'd rather see one person making all the month, rather to see small businesses make it. Spencer, you hit the nail on the head my friend, what happend to 'Free Enterprise'? This was a bad call. Take a look at Miami, al the food trucks.. It just appears eveyone wants Sarasota to be another naples.. and how sad would that be? Private businesses can co-exist with corporations. It can work, if the Commissioners gave it a try. Just a middle class persons thoughts.
Hawkeye October 24, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Mark, I so could not agree with you more, that the government should not get involved. To be quite honest, I'd love to see a huge gathering at the Bayfront park in support of food trucks and to protest the governments involvement. Why not organize an event..
Hawkeye October 24, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Dawn, you ever hear the term' 'Culture Diversity'? Different cultures can co-exist with the wet t-shirt contests at the daquiri deck any day of the week.
Hawkeye October 24, 2012 at 01:17 AM
And Sharon, the food at these food trucks is amazing.. go to the food trucks on Ringling, across from Evies to see for yourself.
Hawkeye October 24, 2012 at 01:47 AM
The local government - Sarasota County Commissioners, just denied the owners of the food truck a piece of the American Dream.. and to say it was over parking and traffic...why did they not, instead of merely boting NO, attempt.. better yet, make a single effort and trying to find this couple an alternate location - (Siesta Key Public Parking Lot) and give them a month trial. That would have been the right thing to do.
Hawkeye October 24, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Dawn, I disagree... I believe the food trucks ad diversity and acceptance of different cultures. You should go to South Beach, see the food trucks lining the beach, right next door to a bar selling $15.00 margaritas.. yes, it can work.
Hawkeye October 24, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Robert, I agree.. are we just going to make a post and let our word fall on deaf ears, or are we going to do something about it?! We need to protest governments involvement and fight for the american dream.
Brian Schwaab October 24, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Beautiful & Elegant? I have lived here for awhile, however, even without food vendor trucks a trash problem already exists at Siesta Beach and Siesta Village. My wife and I, like many other residents walk both areas on a daily basis and help the workers by picking up trash. It's ridiculous that county workers and locals have to pick up this mess daily. It's even more ridiculous that workers have to clean the trash from grassy areas before mowing! Overflowing and often dumped over trash cans with everything from beer & wine bottles/cans, water bottles, empty plastic cups, pizza boxes, ice cream containers and other food wrappers. The strip of sidewalk in front of SKOB and Daquiri Deck is littered every morning when we walk through there. Very sad! Where is the enforcement by local authorities? This is a nice area and surprising there is no enforcement and the county puts up with this. If we are going to talk about something then let's tell it like it really is. Without the food truck vendors, a problem exists already! Let's not speculate and put the blame on vendors who are not even there yet!
Robert October 24, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Brian, Food trucks are not evil. And yes, SKOB and the Daquiri deck should do a better job of clean up.....But I must say, It seems that we like to live in a "Nanny" state. Soon, I may have to ask permission to have a Grouper sandwich on Tuesdays. It is horrible to have choices: I hate that. Maybe a government official can select the next painting that I am allowed to purchase. That would be great! We all know, that I can't make a decision like this for myself. As we strive to follow in the steps of other great societies, creating government branches that oppress business and strangle it's citizens, we have only one eventuality. Loss. Economic Paralysis. Unemployment. Monopoly. Bureaucratic waste. Stifled innovation. At one time the Roman empire, as the mightiest of nations, created a government that crushed it's citizens and taxed the middle class to death.....met any Roman's lately? How is France doing? Greece? Italy? America? The issue is bigger than food trucks. Boy, I am going to miss that Grouper Sandwich.....
Robert October 24, 2012 at 05:05 PM
With a minor adjustment or expansion the Siesta Key Parking lot could handle 5 or 6 trucks. Charging the trucks a monthly lease would feed efforts to fund positive changes to Siesta Key Beach. (Like expanding and improving parking)
Robert October 24, 2012 at 05:08 PM
As no food trucks should every be allowed on the Sands of Siesta Key, we can maintain the beauty of our beaches. It has been common, for decades, to have modest beach food vendors near our public beaches.....Some of the best shrimp I ate on Oahu came from a food truck and their presence didn't ruin my beach experience for a second....it enhanced it.
Robert October 24, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Mark, Good luck to you. You and other entrepreneurs are the future of our country. Keep on motoring forward.....
Beverly Kingsley October 24, 2012 at 06:15 PM
The businesses there opposed. Did the residents and shoppers get to give input? I emailed the commissioners but I suspect it fell on dead ears.
Brian Schwaab October 24, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Robert I agree 100%
Charles Schelle (Editor) October 24, 2012 at 07:17 PM
For street cart and food truck vendors, Claudia Murray with the Institute of Justice Florida Chapter, said food truck entrepreneurs can talk to their non-profit for advice for loosening up laws, etc. They also operate the Tampa Bay Mobile Food Vending Alliance, but it doesn't appear that it includes any Sarasota members. That information can be found at: http://www.ij.org/nsvi and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tampa-Bay-Mobile-Food-Vending-Alliance/190712477700857
Mark Gabrick October 24, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Quite nice to see all of the support this article has received. I'm hoping to be in SRQ within the next 2-3 months. Please come and give us a try. https://www.facebook.com/TheHogfatherBBQ
RAJ (Bo) McMerritt October 25, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Revolt, anarchy... better yet vote these commissioners out..they have no clue what 'we' want rather they have what 'they' want...I want one of those $15.00 margaritas

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