Local restaurants are upset with the abundance of food trucks doing business in the area, saying the mobile eateries are taking away business from formal restaurants.
Members of the newly formed Washington Circle Business Association debated the trucks Wednesday, saying the trucks directly compete with restaurants but incur fewer expenses.
“If someone has a food truck right outside my restaurant and doesn’t pay rent, clearly they can sell a burger for a lot less than I can,” Jeremy Pollok, a managing partner at Tonic, said.
Kris Hart – an alumnus and owner of on-campus businesses Foggy Bottom Grocery and Relaxed Spa & Tans – said the association hopes to find a way to even the playing field between trucks and brick-and-mortar businesses, adding that it is difficult for small businesses to maintain an identity in an area dominated by a large university.
“In Foggy Bottom and West End, we’ve kind of been overshadowed by the 800-pound gorilla known as the George Washington University,” Hart said.
The group hosted D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas, the new chair of the Council’s Committee on Economic Development, to address issues ranging from unemployment to the role of the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
For many business owners, the department’s policies present a challenge for businesses in the city, Hart said, and while the DCRA has come a long way in the last 5 years in terms of its services, restructuring still needs to be done. He said permitting and licensing processes and regulations are too lengthy.
Pollok further explained that the department’s policies are restrictive and tedious.
“Dealing with the regulations in the District of Columbia can be very time consuming, very expensive and very challenging,” Pollok said. “It’s more difficult than it needs to be. I’ve owned businesses in other locations and the red tape is a lot more here than what I’ve experienced in other places.”
Pollok said the Washington Circle Business Association is a good forum for local businesses to work together and promote community interests.
“As individuals we have a little bit less of a voice than as a group,” Pollok said.