Addressing a void Colorado Springs has felt since the nationwide explosion of mobile food, local vendors are planning to get together and dish from a downtown parking lot.
Curbside Cuisine hopes to open Friday, June 8, just north of the 7-Eleven at Tejon Street and Pikes Peak Avenue. Roughly 10 carts and trucks are expected on a semi-permanent basis, with initial participants likely including the Springs Cupcake Truck, Jammin Cabana, Nourish Organic Juices, Bundt Appétit, Bite Me Gourmet Sausage, El Padrino Mexicano, the Downtown Burrito Co., Chicago Pizza, Colorado Coffee Merchants, Island Style BBQ and the Crepe Crusaders.
Each would pay $300 in monthly rent to a limited-liability company administered by Sandra Vanderstoep of Garden of the Gods Gourmet. But she insists this is not her baby.
"We really expect and anticipate that these vendors are literally going to own this," she says, adding: "There is just lots happening down there, and lots of people only see the empty storefronts, and what we're trying to do is to fill some of those holes."
A number of hurdles remain before opening day. Vanderstoep says business owners have to lock down the right licensing and county inspection. They have to agree to pay the rent, even though some have been able to set up for free elsewhere. They also must work out logistics for removing their waste and water, since it's generally expected they'll keep their trucks there almost all the time.
Finally, they have to get signatures from the lot's owner, Nor'wood Development Group, and wait out a public-comment opportunity prior to potential approval by local authorities.
That's where it might get messy.
Slate.com's Matthew Yglesias wrote it well in February: "There are only so many meals in the day, so proprietors of fixed-location food service establishments worry that every lobster roll that's handed over from a truck is $18 lost from their own kitchen."
Elsewhere, this has led to restaurants lobbying government officials to restrict trucks and carts. Vanderstoep says in the Springs, she does expect "resistance from some unnamed quarters."
Another concern is taxes. For example, downtown businesses pay into its Business Improvement District; to date, mobile food vendors have not. Greg Howard, owner of McCabe's Tavern and board member of the Colorado Restaurant Association, says that should change. He'd also like to see the pod offer "more interesting food" than what's currently planned. At that point, he says, Curbside Cuisine could add to the downtown environment.
Up in Denver, the Civic Center EATS Outdoor Café, a grouping of food trucks meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is about to begin its sixth year at the Civic Center Conservancy. Brittany Morris Saunders of the Downtown Denver Partnership says that while the restaurant community is prone to giving "push-back" when it perceives a threat, she's unaware of ongoing problems with EATS. Denver Post features and entertainment editor Tucker Shaw adds via e-mail that, if anything, most conflicts are among the trucks themselves, since the DDP "approved more carts and longer hours, which is pissing off some of the guys who've been around longer."
When it comes down to it, though, says Conservancy executive director Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, all sellers are united on a very basic level.
"The common 'enemy' is not other food purveyors," she says, "but people eating lunch at their desks."