If there's one area that doesn't see a lot of food-truck action in South Florida, it's Delray Beach. The beachside town that prides itself on its quaintness -- after all, its slogan is "the Village by the Sea" -- does not allow mobile businesses within its borders.
Saltwater Brewery wishes to change that status quo at a City Commission meeting on Tuesday.
Open since January, the Delray Beach brewery has had its fair share of critics who feel like a lack of nearby food prevents people from staying.
"We're allowed to have them [on premise] with a special event permit," says Bo Eaton, cofounder of Saltwater Brewery, noting that it is limited to about a half dozen per year -- nothing close to having someone onsite all 52 weeks of the year.
"We feel it's responsible for us [serving alcohol] if there's a food option," he reasons, remarking that people still order in from restaurants nearby and downtown but that having a truck with inexpensive $2 or $3 items would be a boon. "Craft beer is a lot like wine in that when you go to vineyards and do sampling and the tour, they offer things like cheese and crackers. Beer and food trucks go together.
"Still, we don't want to change our concept of being a taproom and closing early."
He explains that breweries like Due South Brewing Co. in Boynton Beach and Funky Buddha Brewing in Oakland Park, two of the leading production breweries in the area, feature almost daily food trucks on their property or nearby and reside in similar light-manufacturing zones.
Luckily for Eaton and the team at Saltwater, the brewery sits just outside of the Community Redevelopment Agency, which highly regulates the development of certain areas of the city. A simple change to allow food trucks in the western areas of the city would give these brewers what they want while preserving the status quo downtown.
Some might argue that bringing in more food options from out of town may hurt local businesses, but Eaton argues against that concern.
"The trucks are great for the local restaurants; they see it as an opportunity to showcase their food further west of downtown. It could draw more people in to Delray. When you have people driving almost an hour to come visit, it will be their first taste of local establishments.
"We realize that it's a constant battle between old-school and new-school Delray Beach."
Ultimately, if this change to zoning were to occur, the location of where these trucks would go would need to be decided. As anyone who has gone to Saltwater on a busy weekend knows, parking can be problematic, and a food truck taking up space wouldn't help matters.
"We'd need to figure that out," Eaton says. "There is some shared grass area, a small area behind the brewery.
"We have a bunch of people who are behind us, once they come out here and see what we're all about. The mayor [Cary Glickstein], vice mayor [Shelly Petrolia], and commissioners like Adam Frankel all seem to be in support."
It seems that Saltwater Brewery wants the help of its nongovernmental supporters in attending the City Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 17, at 6 p.m., \when there is a public forum to state matters that concern citizens of Delray Beach. As is the way with democracy, a few choice words can help sway the opinions of our elected officials.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers, and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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