More food trucks could soon line the streets of downtown Medford, but a restaurant association has notified the city that considers it unfair competition.
On Thursday, the City Council said it would consider allowing food trucks to park on city streets and next to sidewalks to cater to the bar crowd. There was no final action taken in the study session.
"The more food trucks the merrier," said Councilor Clay Bearnson, who owns the Gypsy Blues Bar.
Bearnson said the three things that will help make the downtown thrive are food, art and music.
But the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, which represents local restaurants, opposed the idea in an Aug. 4 letter written to the council.
Greg Astley, director of government affairs for the association, stated that unlike restaurants, food trucks don't pay property taxes, have less vigorous health inspections and place a strain on public restrooms and other facilities.
"Because of these factors, food trucks frequently operate at a competitive advantage over more traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants and bars," Astley stated.
Restaurants and bars that operate during the proposed hours of 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. would be hurt financially if the city allows food trucks to operate on streets in that timeframe, he said.
Bearnson said he would like to see a pilot project to allow food trucks to park around Alba Park, even proposing that the hours of operation be expanded to 4 a.m.
"It would give people a chance to sober up," he said.
But Mayor Gary Wheeler said, "I'm not real comfortable with Alba Park."
The city already allows at least two food trucks to operate on city property, including the hot dog stand on the sidewalk across from Rogue Community College on Central Avenue, and a food truck called "Man Food" that just recently started operating within Alba Park near the dog fountain.
Parking food trucks on the street first came to the attention of city officials when the Fired Up Food Truck began serving midnight meals just outside the Bohemian Club in November 2016.
Initially, the city gave the food truck permission but later discovered it was prohibited under Medford municipal code. The truck had been operating for about three months, from about 11 p.m. until sometime after 2 a.m., before the permission was revoked at the beginning of 2017.
Councilor Tim Jackle said he wanted a public hearing to see what kind of reaction the city would receive from the community over food trucks on the streets. He suggested getting the Planning Commission involved in debating the issue.
But Councilor Kim Wallan said she didn't think it was necessarily a Planning Commission issue, since the food trucks are only temporarily parked on city streets.
Councilor Kay Brooks said she also supported allowing food trucks around Alba Park.
"Food trucks can bring an element of culture to downtown Medford," she said.