Moves afoot to “regulate” food trucks in downtown Ventura and Oxnard strike us as singularly short-sighted.
The food truck phenomenon is putting Southern California on the map for innovation, for entrepreneurship and for good eats that symbolize our diversity and our gift for creating something out of nothing.
Food trucks are not restaurants — they are for casual dining, after-hours dining and in some cases just a personal treat. They attract loyal followers, foster engagement with a younger, hipper audience and they are a testament to the ability of many minority entrepreneurs to rise above economic adversity.
Food truck regulations, which often amount to bans, are not necessary in downtown Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo, where traffic is heavy, parking is at a premium and tourists flock by the thousands.
But Ventura and Oxnard, two cities that are considering new food truck rules, do not have the tourist influx levels that their counterparts north and west have.
Instead they have downtowns which, with a few notable exceptions such as Lure Fishouse or the movie theaters in Oxnard’s central square, could use more customers. A lot more customers.
Which is where food trucks come in. Food trucks have the potential to turn downtowns into more vibrant and engaging civic centers, and they should be welcomed. Politicians should resist the temptation to regulate, tax and kill an innovative form of free-enterprise. Food trucks stick in the craw of incumbent restaurateurs because they are popular.
What downtown Oxnard and Ventura need is more visitors, particularly more visitors who have money to spend and who are in the downtown area to partake of lawful and family-friendly activities.
In our view, food trucks should be looked at as the entry level to a downtown dining experience and they should be welcomed. Those who patronize food trucks should be encouraged to “graduate” to a sit-down dining experience at a nearby restaurant.
That is the sort of thinking that will leverage the popularity of food trucks to make Oxnard and Ventura more accessible to young urban consumers. Which, after all, is the name of the game.