Picture courtesy of Asadarestaurant.com
I am tempted to tear into a rant on how corrupt our government is at every level. I could surely go on for pages upon pages about how convinced I am that a person must be required to check their soul at the door before they serve in public office.  I could spend days citing example after example of local, state, and federal governmental agencies abusing their powers in the interest of the highest bidder.  

I will try not to do that. Instead, I would just like to try to talk about food trucks… mostly.

WYFF reported on Tuesday that Greenville City Council is considering new, stricter regulations in regard to Greenville’s food truck community.  By community, I mean Asada and Neue Southern food trucks.  Apparently these two sets of entrepreneurs have become quite the concern for Greenville and the City Council has been forced to consider action.  

It breaks down like this: Asada and Neue Southern serve really, really good food in the downtown area. They set up shop in a private parking lot (with the property owner’s permission of course), open up their service window, and take care of Greenville’s hungry masses until they have sold all the food their little trucks can hold.  Since the experience is a little, should I say, less luxurious than a cozy booth at a brick and mortar establishment their success depends solely on the quality of their food and the loyalty of their fan base.  In these areas both businesses deliver in spades.

Asada has reinvented the taco truck and serves a gourmet fusion of Latin American cuisine.  Their tacos are the best in town and their steak quesadilla’s have an effect on me that has become slightly more addictive than crack (or so I imagine). Further, Asada’s owners Roberto and Gina have to be two of the nicest people you will ever meet in your life. You can find them serving lunch or dinner four or five days a week anywhere between the Community Tap parking lot, Pendleton Street in the Far West End, or at a special event near you such as Albino Skunk MusicFestival or Freakcycle.

Neue Southern offers what they call “European cuisine inspired by Southern tradition”.  To be honest, the first time I heard this, I was not sure what the hell that meant. To be even more honest, I am still not completely sure.  What I am sure of, however, is that every single thing I have ever tasted from the Neue food has been simply amazing.  From the Bahn Mi Vietnamese sandwich I had on our first visit to the biscuits and gravy brunches I have devoured on more than a few Saturdays at Community Tap, Neue Southern is doing something completely different. The fact that they are doing it out of a truck is simply amazing.

From frequenting both of these establishments (vehicles?) we have learned that the food truck industry presents more than a few challenges that a conventional restaurant might not have to face.  Trucks break down, rain and cold keeps crowds away, and since a truck has a limited amount of space they have a tendency to run out of food.  Plus they have the added challenge of convincing people that food out of a truck is as good as or better than food served from a popular restaurant.  

Up until a few days ago I thought that this was pretty much a complete list of headaches that Greenville’s food trucks had to deal with. I saw it as a fairly daunting list of obstacles and I admired the owners of Asada and Neue Southern for their success in overcoming them.  For some reason, however, Greenville City Council sees things differently…

Apparently Asada and Neue Southern are too good. They are so good, in fact, that some downtown restaurant owners must have started feeling a wee bit threatened.  The WYFF report does not tell us who has who’s ear, what councilman owes what restaurateur a favor, or who plays golf with whom every Saturday but the fact is that politics have officially intervened where public opinion has not.  Apparently the Greenville City Council appointed a “citizens task force” to research this highly important food truck crisis and they now have a list of suggestions to vote on in the near future.  

Like any good governmental action these recommendations start with sticking Asada and Neue Southern with additional fees to increase their already challenging costs of doing business. These fees come in the form of annual AND temporary use permits because governmental agencies are great at ripping off their victims, I mean constituents, as thoroughly as possible. It is called being efficient, I believe.  

The big hit is that Asada and Neue Southern will no longer be allowed to operate within 250 feet of an established restaurant “essentially eliminating food trucks from downtown Greenville's Central Business District.”  

Excuse me? 

You can open up one restaurant right next door to another restaurant and then open up another one right next to that, right? If I am not mistaken, in America we call that competition. Suddenly, though, if one of those restaurants happens to have wheels and a limited staff working out of a tiny kitchen, then they are not playing fair?

Forgive me if I am a bit confused. Actually, no, I am not confused. The explanation is in fact rather obvious.  You do not have to do too much reading between the lines of WYFF’s story to see exactly what is happening here.  I will be glad to save you the time, though, and do the between-the-line reading for you.

Simply put, the owners of certain downtown Greenville restaurants that serve mediocre food are threatened by the fact that a couple of businesses are drawing bigger crowds with better products out of trucks.  Instead of improving their own product, they have run crying to their elected officials to do something about this horrible offense.  Since the restaurant owners outnumber the food truck owners, our elected officials are serving the best interest of their next election cycle and they are working together to make life difficult for the little guys. Along the way, they are selling the average media consumer on the ridiculous notion that working out of a truck gives these restaurants some sort of advantage.

Picture courtesy of Neuesouthernfoodtruck.com
Clearly neither group has any understanding of concepts like “capitalism,” “private property” or “appropriate roles of government”. Additionally, I would be willing to bet that I could teach our dogs to play violin before either the restaurant owners or councilmen in question could ever grasp such challenging concepts. 

Remember how I said I could go on a big rant about government corruption? This is me putting the brakes on it before I get carried away…

Instead of complaining endlessly, we would like to thank Asada and Neue Southern for the great food and service they provide the downtown Greenville community.  Further, we would like to commend a few “conventional” downtown Greenville restaurants for their support and cooperation in the food truck movement.  

Our friends at The Cazbah, a downtown Greenville staple for years, share the kitchen at their Greer location with Neue Southern for all their food preparation needs. Instead of being threatened by a restaurant on wheels, they actually opened their doors to Neue Southern to help them prepare quality products. That smells more like cooperation than competition, if you ask me. 

Another favorite spot of ours, The Owl, has also thrown their support behind the food trucks in a huge way. Today they announced that they have invited Asada and Neue Southern to set up shop in their own parking lot next Wednesday.  Won’t the City Council have a fit when hungry Greenvillians have to choose between eating out of a truck or a restaurant in the same parking lot? Instead of legislating competition between businesses, they will be forced to stand idly by while entrepreneurs with similar interests build a community… surely, someone will find a reason to complain about that!

I know there are a lot of different takes on American History but I have always been fond of the one that suggests that this country was built on independence, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. I find it disappointing that a handful of restaurant owners and city councilmen never read that version.

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