Paul Ripa, owner of Paul's Sub Shop in North Miami Beach, was Googling North Miami Beach election results when he found something interesting -- a notice on the City's website announcing Slow Food Truck would be serving lunches in front of City Hall.
Ripa, whose family has had businesses in NMB for over 30 years, was livid. "It's incredible. All these little businesses are struggling. They need their lunch business and the City of North Miami Beach decides they're going to park a food truck for four hours a day and promote it on their website? These people are absolutely out of their minds," he told Short Order.
Ripa added that in this economy, local restaurants rely heavily on city employees for lunch-time traffic. "What do I do? Do I tell my guys to leave early? Do I close? The guy with a food truck - what's his overhead cost? No water bills, no garbage bills, no rent, no license. It's a dagger in my heart."
Michael J. Casey, currently a candidate in the North Miami Beach City Council (Group 5) runoff election, agrees. "All of a sudden we're going to decide who's going to do business here? That's socialism. They're playing favorites with one business. And it's incredible," he said. "I went to Mr. Bonner's office and he wasn't in, so I left a note on the back of the [food truck] notice saying did you jackasses ever consider the small shop down the street?"
The Bonner whom Casey was referring to is North Miami Beach City Manager Lyndon Bonner. While he wasn't available for comment, Short Order received a call back from assistant city manager Roslyn B. Weisblum, who conferenced us in with Brian O'Connor, purchasing manager, and Paulette Murphy, director of leisure services.
Weisblum told us that Slow Food Truck won a bid to operate the cafe located at the city's performing arts center. While the cafe is under renovation, they asked Slow Food Truck to park their mobile kitchen adjacent to city hall.
"Many local government offices have food service in their buildings. It was a big convenience when we had the other organization that was here. They weren't able to sustain themselves, and we're hoping this partnership works well. We would have been happy if Mr. Ripa applied for the RFP, but we're hoping this partnership will work."
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O'Connor said the city first reached out to local businesses, "We sent out several RFP's. The last time we went and reached out to local businesses and received no bids back from them."
Slow Food Truck co-owner Oren Bass was shocked to hear about the opposition from local businesses, "We're offering a service to the city hall complex. The reason we brought out the truck was to offer simple concession services to the employees so they don't have to get into their cars. We won a bid with the city. We'll never park somewhere without permission of the owner. We don't want to get fined."
More and more, food trucks roll out onto Miami streets weekly. As their numbers increase, they may find growing opposition from brick-and-mortar restaurants. But as long as people want interesting and economical places to eat, both truck and traditional eateries will have to find a way to get along somehow.