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Dusty Buns Bistro Bus vs. the City of Fresno

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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:

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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.

Responses to "Dusty Buns Bistro Bus vs. the City of Fresno"

Dusty Buns Rocks! As a musician Ive gotten to eat at the valleys best restaurants. Dusty Buns is up there, and its a food truck, and its affordable. I was just talking to a friend that its sort a mini food revolution here in Fresno. I understand the citys view and health codes with food trucks, but lets find a way to regulate them and lets keep this great food coming!

Mandle says:

American diets are truly distorted, thanks for pointing out your own ignorance yet again.

priscilla says:

WTF FRESNO. FAIL. You should be making it easy for new businesses to succeed.

Sarah99 says:

If 68 cents of every dollar spent locally goes back to the community vs only 43 cents of the same dollar is spent at a chain, how much more is this compounded when Dusty Buns buys their ingredients locally? With all the economic turmoil, it would seem to be in Fresno’s best interest to support local, small businesses and not continue to push the small business man away from success.
Small, family owned farms and small business owners founded this community. Fresno wants revitalization and I don’t see that happening without some open-mindedness. If you make it hard for small businesses to operate in Fresno, they WILL open businesses elsewhere and God help Fresno then.

Michael M says:

If these vendor trucks have to keep “moving”, can moving constitute a few inches at a time?

JJJ says:

Yes, lets restrict businesses because they MAY compete with an existing one!

That’s the american way!

Tom D. says:

It’s hard to understand why the city would want to shut down a couple of entrepreneurs who buy their ingredients locally, generate buzz/tourism in some areas that could use revitalization, and make some damn good food in the process. The justification provided regarding the “threat” to other restaurants is silly, but I suspect it’s the real reason that Dusty Buns is being singled out. We don’t seem to have a problem with competition when new restaurants open up next to existing ones, and I have a hard time understanding how this is much different. If people want to consume a restaurant’s food, they’ll patronize it. If something better comes along – whether in a truck or down the street – they’ll head there instead.

As someone who has greatly enjoyed Dusty Buns’ food, and the energy they brought to the Tower and other areas, I think it will be a shame if some short-minded bureaucrats manage to shut them down. In fact, I don’t even live in Fresno, but the prospect of food from Dusty Buns – as well as coffee from Cafe Corazon, cupcakes from Frosted Cakery, etc. – has brought me down to Wishon Row more than once on a work night. Sad that the city would like to take away one of my reasons for patronizing local businesses.

Jerry Duncan says:

The observations about how the enforcement starts is very accurate. The City’s arguement, often pushed by the City Council member representing the district, is that the exisitng businesses in the area have to cover their large overhead that the mobile vendors don’t.

The actions by code enforcement often are the result of complaints by the local eateries who call them or their councilmember.

It is not an easy dilema to resolve. The success of mobile vendors could cause the closure of the existing eateries. When that happens, the mobile vendors just move on to a new place and the existing neighborhood has empty storefronts.

Jeff says:

After reading Jerry Duncan’s response I can’t help think that some business owner(s) in the Tower District is(are) worried that they are going to be put out of business because Dusty Buns sets up shop on Wishon Ave. one night a week.

Seems a bit unreasonable.

Ken says:

It would seem that there are plenty of successful city-models for allowing food carts to exist side-by-side with traditional restaurants. Take Portland, for instance. They have hordes of food carts set-up in permanent locations (mostly empty lots) all around the city. These lots serve as mini-food courts for lunch patrons, and serve some of the most unique and delicious fare you can find. While this is not the only civic model, it has proven to be quite viable. Why does the city of Fresno insist this is such a difficult proposition when many other cities have figured out how to do this?

Alex says:

Honestly local businesses should be a bit worried. Dusty Buns isn’t some taco truck, they have excellent food at reasonable prices. I was a bit of a doubter till the wife dragged me to have one of their sandwiches. I must say it was one of the better sandwiches I’ve had in a long time. I would go out of my way to find this place. I can count the number of other eateries in Fresno I would do this for on on both hands. A place like this would put the fear into me if I was running a mediocre or chain restaurant here in town.

Heather says:

They should be worried. They should also try offering better food and far better service, two things Dusty Buns is great at.

It doesn’t surprise me that the solution for these places isn’t to improve, but to try and kill the competition, who is definitely making them look inferior.

Heather, you make a great point. It is very commonplace to maintain the lowest common denominator instead of raising standards. When a new business raises standards, existing (often lazy) ones will claim an unfair situation. Get better, people.

The same thing happens when Fresno makes negative lists (dumbest, drunkest, fattest, etc.). People bitch about how “unfair” those lists are instead of using them as a wake up call. Get better, people.

Constructive feedback is good. Businesses (and communities) need to listen and then change behavior.

Kristin C says:

Mandle, please explain. I don’t understand your comment. Who is pointing out their ignorance?

Childers says:

Amen! I’m pretty sure that most people would rather sit down and eat somewhere if all things (price, service, etc) are considered equal. It’s sad that the restaurants in the area have learned nothing from this, except how to find gray areas in zoning ordinances.

Tootallsteve says:

Well if Chief Dyer and his Dept. did’t think that having a drinking establishment that has dancing was a sin we would probably have a better downtown where we could support restaurants and food trucks. Then the food truck would not be concentrated in the one area that people will go out at night. This city is large enough and has enough culture to support more than one area.

mdub420 says:

This is kind of off topic, but sense there’s some talk of businesses closing, I thought I’d ask. Is the penthouse still open at the Chuck? Also I noticed that Red Zone was open around 8:30 Saturday night. Did that close down too?

Famous says:

It seems like a food truck’s affect is minimal, at best. Yes, it is mobile, but is is also strictly limited in the amount and speed of food it can serve and its potential business (people who don’t mind standing in line for an hour to eat on the street).

Mitch says:

Doesn’t Dusty Buns compete with other restaurants the same way Buffalo Wild Wings now competes with Doghouse Grill? Is the City going to stop other restaurants from opening due to competition with existing establishments? Probably not. Personally I think the City would be better off with unique food trucks rather than another chain restaurant.

Heather says:

Also, isn’t Dusty Buns open only a couple of days a week? The “It’s on Wishon” thing is one night a week, which makes the complaints from Tower District restaurants even more petty and absurd.

Heather P. says:

I wonder how Tower Restaurants will respond when the pop-up restaurant craze makes its way here.

Sarah says:

I think Dusty buns has great food and even better prices. Plus great service. I can recount numerous times in the past six months that a Tower eatery I have patronized has been out of multiple ingredients for the item I am purchasing, the service has been poor (how hard is it to get a class of water at Livingstones?) or was just so pricey I kept walking. The other problem is that the Tower Business association is like that mob, they always want a cut of the action, I’m sure if Dusty Buns kicked a little down each visit there would not be a problem.

donnymarvin says:

Seriously, save a food truck, don’t we have better things to do with our time. Jerry Duncan is 100% correct, not a fair playing field here, it is cheaper because they have very little overhead compared to a fixed eating establishment. Where were all of you when Coney Island went bye bye?

rob says:

maybe these established business should buy food tucks; evolve or die it’s the american way

Natali says:

Why take it out on them for having a business model that works for them financially? What are they doing that is so wrong? Providing tasty, locally sourced food at a great price- because they aren’t getting in over their head capital wise, they should be shut down? I don’t understand that.

ed says:

Corin Hoggard reports from city
manager  ”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 concerns raised by existing establishments.”

Jessica says:

How very “Fresnish.” Something that has shown to be popular in other cities? Well, crush it if it shows up here. Stay the course of mediocrity – after all, we have a reputation to uphold.

Starline says:

As a mamnager of a tower restaurant…Pull the stick out City of Fresno, They have as much right to do business as anyone else. If the city spent less time trying to close business and more time trying to help, we as a city ,would be in much better shape.

Rhinestone says:

What? The city is trying to find a win-win now? I thought they were just a bunch of new business haters!

Chuck McNally says:

Just to clarify – Dusty Buns and other taco trucks still have to pay to store their trucks in areas which allow for proper disposal of waste and which are inspected like more traditional restaurants. They don’t just park the truck in their garage or something.

The truck itself is also inspected by the same health inspectors that inspect more traditional, brick and mortar, restaurants. They also pay taxes to the City like all of the other more traditional restaurants in the area, and operate under a lot more strict regulations or a foggy grey area legally.

Its about time Fresno modernizes its rules and regulations around food trucks and other mobile food vendors. Todays move to allow Dusty Buns to continue to operate while things are figured out was a good first step by the City.

Brian says:

Maybe Gottschalks should have sold their “high fashion” clothes out of a mobile truck. “Gotttrucks by Joe Levy”.

kiel says:

This is good news. I love it when government is responsive and thorough.

Scott says:

maybe to avoid the whole street side rules, they should work a deal with an owner of any of the many empty lots around town, say $50/day to allow me to park on your empty lot/parking lot that is private property, then no one can complain, right? There must be a privately owned empty lot in the tower somewhere.

Bryan Harley says:

Glad to hear this is getting resolved. And this isn’t targeted at anyone in particular, but when things like this happen, can we not say “this is so Fresno”, “of course Fresno is doing this”.

I’d like to think the culture of a city is based more on the accomplishments of its citizens than the shortcomings of its government. Let’s focus on the positive and be proud of Fresno.

NerdMom says:

The reality is that I have never seen Dusty Buns parked on the street without a line. I went to 1 of the Its on Wishon and there was a line the entire time. The only time I haven’t seen a line is when they have been parked on private property for an event. And even then they were still serving a lot of ppl.

Bunny says:

Again, we see the ignorance of Government, and the jealous nature of human’s. I Love the Dusty Bun Sandwich… concept and effect. Just last week a co-worker and I sat down on the lawn at Kaiser enjoyed the sun, ate healthy food, and recharged our batteries. We are better medical professionals because we have the freedom to eat out of a Truck !!!! Fresno continues to be it’s worst Damn Enemy……

Shame…. Shame … Shame…. but Hey… let’s sone for more Walmarts…. whoot Whoot … So not winning……………

GenaMOM says:

Fresno needs to stop being so closed minded, THIS is why it continues to be a stagnant place for real growth. There is no thinking outside of the box that ever happens here. ~Sigh~ Poor Fresno. HERE is a peek at what Fresno could be like if it did for once pull it’s head out of it’s butt.:http://www.chow.com/videos/show/chow-tour-handmade/73584/chow-tour-austin-food-trailers-are-king

RESIDENTS of FRESNO: If you want the town to change you must be the change you want to see. Go to City Hall and tell them what you think. Organize as a group. DO SOMETHING

Cathy says:

How can “brick and mortor” restaurants be threatened by Dusty Buns. Not everyone will choose to stand in line for food in the heat and the cold. Not everyone wants to then have to find a place to eat what they purchase.
There are times I love the experience and other times I want to leisurely and comfortable sit down and enjoy dinner with friends. There is room for both.
We have recently moved back from Seattle and people often ask if we miss it. This is one of the things we miss….having an experience and not just easting dinner.