The Chapel Hill Town Council voted unanimously Monday night to allow food trucks to do business there, joining the party that Carrboro and Durham have long hosted and Raleigh and Hillsborough recently hopped aboard.
Food trucks can grace Chapel Hill streets beginning March 1.
After 16 months of consideration, the council gave its seal of approval Monday following a brief presentation by Principal Planner Kendal Brown and no discussion.
Vendors must pay $743 annually to do business. That includes $118 for a zoning permit, $25 for a privilege license and $600 per truck to pay for code enforcement.
Business can occur only on private, commercial lots. Trucks cannot set up within 100 feet of a restaurant unless granted permission by the owner.
The newly opened Blend Cafe, 807 E. Main St., offers customers good coffee, pastries, breakfast and lunch in a convenient and growing location in Durham.
Courtney Smith, the manager and operator of Blend, says the cafe offers a diverse crowd and "a place for anyone from anywhere to come." The cafe shares the Golden Belt campus with technologists, graphic design specialists, artists and event planning specialists. Golden Belt also houses loft apartments and a tattoo company, among many other businesses.
Smith noted that the Golden Belt location is interesting because of the incorrect perception that the area is an unsightly part of town; she says she hopes that Blend will help fight these perceptions.
"I live in the community because I wanted to get a sense of community. I love to be where people can be themselves," says Smith, who operates the cafe with the help of her family.
Smith says she wants to buy locally yet make the products affordable for customers. Currently, Blend uses local farmers for some of their products. The menu includes Counter Culture coffee, new and traditional espresso drinks, smoothies, pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches. The cafe also offers vegan and vegetarian items, and Smith says that Blend seeks to continuously expand its menu.
“Twenty years ago if you didn’t like Miller or Bud, you probably didn’t like beer,” says Brad Wynn as he sizes up the history of the American brewing industry. Wynn is the co-owner of Big Boss Brewing, one of many microbreweries across North Carolina that have changed the way North Carolinians look at beer.
A piece of legislation called the Small BREW (Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce) Act seeks to give microbrewers such as Wynn a competitive edge against big domestic brewers.
The bill would cut the excise tax in half (from $7 to $3.50 per barrel) for any brewery producing less than 60,000 barrels per year. That covers all of North Carolina’s 52 microbreweries. The tax also would decrease, from $18 to $16, for others across the country producing less than 2 million barrels per year. (Beer nerd fact: 1 barrel equals 31 gallons equals 2 kegs.)
North Carolina Congressman Brad Miller, a Democrat, is a co-sponsor of the House version of the bill. On Thursday, he toured Raleigh’s Big Boss Brewery and Natty Greene’s Brewpub, where he had a discussion with small brewers from across the state.
“It would be a great help to the smaller brewers,” Miller said. “There obviously are huge advantages to being Miller or Budweiser and competing against a Big Boss or a Natty Greene’s, and this will even that up a little bit and make it easier for them to compete.”
The legislation has garnered bipartisan support and sponsorship from 11 of North Carolina’s 15 representatives, though Republicans Renee Ellmers, Virginia Foxx and Sue Myrick and Democrat Heath Shuler have not added their names to the bill.
Congressman Miller represents not only microbrews around the Triangle, but also a vast MillerCoors brewery in the town of Eden near the Virginia border. Because the bill cuts taxes only on breweries producing less than 2 million barrels, it won’t create breaks for the Eden plant, which employs 670 people and brews 9 million barrels of beer annually.
“It’s encouraging to know that you support it [the Small BREW Act] even though you support the Eden plant,” said Fullsteam Brewery owner Sean Wilson to Congressman Miller. “It’s a benefit to small brewers but not at the expense of an established business.”
Union workers at MillerCoors in Eden see the legislation differently. “Miller brewery provides some of the best jobs, best pay and best health benefits in North Carolina,” says Chip Roth, spokesperson for Teamsters Local 391, which represents the Eden plant workers. “Any legislation that gives one section of industry and advantage over another is fundamentally unfair.”