Food trucks are one of the things Oak Parkers want on the streets, according to a recent survey done by the village. But because there are only four licensed food trucks in the area, the village is working on ways to make Oak Park more food truck friendly.
"Food trucks have proven to be really popular," David Powers, the village's communications director, said. "But there can be friction between them and brick and mortar restaurants."
A moment of friction did arise Oct. 28. between mobile restaurant The 206, owned by Seattle native Valentino Ganacias, and longtime Oak Park restaurant Al's Grill, 1100 Madison St.
The 206, which specializes in waffles and coffee, parked on Wisconsin Avenue near Rush Oak Park Hospital early Tuesday and planned to stay from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., said Ganacias.
Al's Grill general manager Tony Loutos said he noticed the food truck taking up metered parking spaces.
Ganacias said his truck was parked three parking spaces away from the business.
"I'm really conscious of where I park," Ganacias, a new Oak Parker, said. "I want to be respectful and I don't want to be seen as trying to divert traffic."
Loutos said his concern was not so much the food truck being nearby local businesses but the parking spaces, a major concern because of limited parking availability in the area.
Loutos asked Ganacias to move around 8:30 a.m.
The food truck owner turned to Twitter to let customers know he would no longer be set up outside the hospital, but his tweets did incite a couple questions about what happened that morning.
"@rushoakpark @the206foodtruck apologies. We caught some flak from a neighboring business and were asked to leave." The 206 tweeted Tuesday morning. "We are addressing it now."
Both Ganacias and Loutos reached out to the village for clarity.
"To my surprise," said Loutos, "the village had issued a license to the food truck but there are no regulations on the books."
After a five to six week process, The 206 was granted a license by the village and officially opened for business in mid-September. Ganacias said the process of obtaining the license was fairly easy, crediting fellow Oak Park food truck MoJo Express for "opening doors" for his business.
The 206 is not his first business venture. Ganacias opened Empire Espresso with friends in his hometown of Seattle in 2009. It is because he has been in the food service industry for 21 years and owned a brick and mortar restaurant that Ganacias said he understood the Oak Park restaurant's reaction, especially when considering the cost of running a business.
"I really feel supported by the village and customers, I just think there is a need for more communication," Ganacias said.
Powers said the village and the Business Association Council, a group of local business leaders, will be working during the winter months on ways to strike a balance between food trucks and existing businesses in the area.
Until more concrete rules are put in place, Ganacias said that food trucks operate under ice cream truck laws. Under those stipulations food service trucks are only allowed to be parked in one spot for 30 minutes.
Ganacias said he is considering starting a crowd funding campaign to open a brick and mortar restaurant in Oak Park in the future that could be a "community hub" similar to the cafe he operated in Seattle.
Until he fully understands the consumer culture in Oak Park, Ganacias said he is not moving too quickly on that goal. He is however, sticking with his truck for the time being.
"I love the culture and physicality of having a truck," said Ganacias. "But it also makes room for young entrepreneurs to own their own business."
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