UPDATE: City Manager Mark Scott issued this statement about Dusty Buns this afternoon:
“Dusty Buns may continue its normal operations while the City researches the issue. We want to find a way to support entrepreneurial urban activity while also addressing the concerns raised by existing establishments.”
Sounds like Dusty Buns will be back on Wishon Row in the short term, but Fresno has some decisions to make about how it will govern good trucks in the long term.
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ORIGINAL POST, 3/14: In the past few months, Dusty Buns and its “bistro bus” rolled into town and quickly became a new kind of favorite local eatery for many Fresnans.
It brought gourmet food truck culture to Fresno and — would you believe it? — became the No. 1 rated local eatery on Yelp.
Big lines of people hungry for Dusty Buns’ California cuisine (see menu here) followed, and its weekly Thursday night stop at Wishon Row — the Tower District business cluster that Twee and Cafe Corazon also call home — got so popular that sometimes you’d have to wait 45 minutes. Sounds like new-chain-restaurants wait times.
Then last week, the controversy arrived. The city came calling and said Dusty Buns was breaking code by being set up on city streets for so long. Last Thursday, there was a petition going around among Dusty Buns supporters. The Dusty Buns duo — Dustin and Kristin Stewart — used it when they appealed to City Hall on Friday.
These Dusty Buns tweets tell the rest of what happened:
While Dusty Buns’ fate on city streets remains to be seen, there’s already a grassroots movement to help. A “Save Dusty Buns, and the Future of Fresno Food Trucks” Facebook page started this afternoon and already has close to 200 followers.
YOU KINDA HAD TO SEE THIS COMING
Back in October, The Bee had a big story about the complications and confusing rules that could potentially hinder a food truck boom in Fresno. Here it is again, if you missed it.
Among the points the story raised:
… [I]t’s hard to pin down what the rules are because no single office has a full list.
Food-truck owners get business licenses from the city of Fresno’s finance department, health permits from Fresno County’s health department, and zoning rules from the city’s code enforcement division.
After talking with the departments, food-truck owners have different interpretations of the rules.
Regarding the rules about selling on city streets vs. private property (like Dusty Buns does on Wednesday at Kaiser):
Street regulations also are strict. Vendors can only stop if they are flagged down by a customer and must move on after 15 minutes, [city code enforcement supervisor Jerry] Schuber said. If customers are waiting, they must leave after serving the last in line.
The rules consider restaurants. “You have to look at it from the standpoint of a regular business owner,” Schuber said. ” ‘I have a brick-and-mortar building, I pay my taxes, too. I also employ people who come to where I work, and you pull up your taco truck outside of my place.’ ”
Food trucks don’t follow those rules all the time. Taco trucks at Pick-A-Part Auto Wrecking in southwest Fresno, for example, sat on city streets for well over 15 minutes one recent afternoon. One truck did have steady business from passersby and workers in the area, so it wasn’t in violation.
Word is the recent Dusty Buns crackdown came because nearby Tower District restaurants weren’t too happy about the business it was doing. Over at The Fresnan, a debate has already started about brick-and-mortar restaurants vs. food trucks.
The debate is one that’s happened time and time again, in various cities with bustling food truck cultures. So this is not new ground Fresno finds itself in. But it oughta be interesting to see how it plays out.
MORE FOOD TRUCKS … MAYBE
This all happens at a time when another gourmet food truck is getting ready to enter the market. Chef Martin Franco — whose local resume includes Echo, Max’s, Campagnia, Pangea and Yalla Yalla — has plans to open Taste Kitchen later this year. (It’s already on Twitter).
Of his plans, he writes:
Taste Kitchen will be a fully functional kitchen inside a renovated vintage travel trailer that will be set up in various spots in and around Fresno. The menu will be ingredient-driven, globally inspired California cuisine focusing on fresh, local and seasonal produce as much as possible with no items over $10.
The menu will feature a selection of sandwiches, a soup, salads, maybe some fried goodies and a few other surprises.
He’s gotta be watching all this closely, as it looks like we’ll soon find out whether Fresno’s attempt at a gourmet food culture will get squashed before it even really starts.