A local mobile vendor gets a rare opportunity to work downtown when he competes in the popular "Food Truck Wars" next month.
Arthur McKinney, who will put his barbecue ribs up against about 40 food trucks from around Florida in the one-day event on U.S. 1, wants more access to the historic district.
The downtown Community Redevelopment Agency is partially funding the event, contributing $5,240 to pay for road closure, police and portable toilets.
Organizers are counting on exposure to more than 10,000 foodies to boost the city’s economy on Dec. 1 and beyond.
“Since it’s on Route 1, those businesses are going to be able to receive revenue and hopefully return business,” said Gina Stanford, coordinator for Mainstreet Titusville Corp.
When they return, they won’t find McKinney’s barbecue in downtown Titusville because mobile food vendors are forbidden by ordinance to operate in the historic district.
McKinney, who began his portable barbecue business in 1992, believes it is wrong that mobile food vendors are not allowed access to business downtown.
“If the city gives me a license to do business within the city, why should I be discriminated against when a carpenter, plumber or anyone else with an occupational license can do business all over the city — except a food truck,” McKinney said.
Two years ago, McKinney parked his truck and took his culinary skills indoors. He opened Art’s Bar-B-Q restaurant near Knox McRae Drive and Barna Avenue when he was unsuccessful as an everyday mobile vendor.
“It is hard to get anywhere where you can be visible, seen and try to make a living. I had my trailer on Hopkins (Avenue) for over a year, I couldn’t make it, I had to close down.”
McKinney, one of five licensed outdoor food vendors in Titusville, still brings out the truck for events such as "Food Truck Wars," but he blames the city’s ordinance that dictates where he can operate for hampering his business. “They put you in an area where it is impossible for you to make money with that food truck,” McKinney said.
One other mobile food vendor in Titusville has found a successful niche outside downtown at the corner of South Street and Park Avenue. Mary Allen has operated Jamerica’s Kitchen for 14 years. She says she gets customers from Cocoa, Merritt Island and New Smyrna Beach for Caribbean dishes such as oxtail, jerk chicken and curry goat.
Allen has been so successful, she would like to buy the 3,160-square-foot vacant building on that corner. Outside the downtown area, she doubts she would get any help from the city.
“My concern is grants are not given to inner city businesses,” Allen said. “It would make the economy better, because we can start hiring people. Right now, we are mobile and we can’t hire anyone.”