It has been a long, and sometimes painfully annoying road, but the city of North Little Rock will finally allow food trucks starting next Friday. It is a move that was long overdue and will likely make a dramatic impact to the food scene in North Little Rock.
The new ordinance (posted in full at the end) amends the North Little Rock municipal code to allow mobile food vendors (i.e. food trucks) to operate within the city paving the way to allow operations once the ordinance is posted which should come no later than next Friday (June 5th).
“The City Council heard that our requirement process for food trucks could be more streamlined so we made it happen, because we always support small businesses,” North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith tells us. “We want everyone to enjoy all the delicious offerings these food entrepreneurs will bring to our community, and feel free to walk off those meals on our beautiful downtown River Trail.”
Entrepreneurs might be the key word here. Since the surge in local food trucks, Little Rock has seen a number of successful trucks turn brick and mortar, all deciding to remain in Little Rock. Restaurants like The Southern Gourmasian, kBird, The Pizzeria at Terry’s Finer Foods (originally Pizzeria Santa Lucia) and Baja Grill (originally a Benton based truck) are now successful restaurants contributing even more to local tax dollars thanks to the increased traffic a fixed restaurant can accommodate.
During that same time, North Little Rock has not officially allowed food trucks to operate, and likely as a result has seen no trucks-turned-restaurants decide to locate within the city. For the past several years, we have heard rumblings from both food truck owners and residents wanting to change this. It appears mayor Smith wanted to do his part to change that and spur likely economic development.
“I’m stoked to finally be able to respond ‘yes!’ to all the emails we get asking us to come to NLR,” The Beast food truck owner Gwen Jones tells us. “The city council has listened to the constituents and that we’ve come to a compromise with the city on what we can do to make them more comfortable with food trucks. I appreciate the respect they’re giving us as small businesses by allowing us in their city and the overwhelming support of the community.”
Earlier this year, a task force was hosted by aldermen Charlie Hight and Beth White to form a plan to allow trucks to operate within the city. Members included Bob Major (NLR CVB), Katelyn Thomas (City Clerk), Dan Scott (Neighborhood Services), and Justin Patterson (The Southern Gourmasian) who all sat in with representation from the NLR fire department, attorney’s office and the Arkansas Hospitality Association. North Little Rock citizens were represented by Donna Hardcastle, Kent Walker and Jeremy Rhodes (Geek Eats).
“I’m really happy with the way this ordinance finally took shape. It’s not easy shaping laws that make everyone happy, but I think that the work of everyone involved made that possible,” Geek Eats owner and NLR resident Jeremy Rhodes tells us. “I’m eager to see the food trucks stopping in North Little Rock rather than pass through us. It took a little longer than people hoped for but I think the trucks will now find open arms and favorable rules for them.”
What impact allowing food trucks in North Little Rock will have remains to be seen, however expect to see the most noticeable impacts on the Argenta and Park Hill areas. Argenta Farmer’s market could see a big boost competing with other markets in the area by allowing trucks to set up during market hours. Park Hill could potentially see a number of very smart trucks set up during the weekends as residents there continue to desire food options with few restaurants willing to commit to the area.
This should provide a big boost to the North Little Rock food scene and one we are extremely happy to see happen. Finally.