Food truck controversy still simmering in Sunrise

— Arlon Kennedy and his wife hawk homemade chicken wings from their "Auntie Trish" food truck — but not in Sunrise.

Gourmet food trucks are virtually outlawed in the city thanks to a longtime ban on outdoor sales that has so far been a roadblock for the rolling restaurants.

"I do hold out hope," Kennedy said of a growing effort to pave the way for food trucks in Sunrise, his home for the past 16 years.

An ongoing debate over food trucks continued on Tuesday as commissioners discussed how to regulate what has become a popular phenomenon.

Food truck events are going on without a hitch in places like Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Plantation, Davie, Hallandale Beach and Miami.

But in Sunrise, food truck owners have found themselves at the center of controversy.

Commissioner Joey Scuotto, a restaurant owner in Sunrise, has been reluctant to welcome food trucks because he thinks they bring unfair competition to the city's brick-and-mortar establishments.

"I'm not going to support food trucks coming to Sunrise seven days a week like you guys want," Scuotto said Tuesday.

Commissioner Larry Sofield echoed Scuotto, saying he opposes allowing in food trucks and other street vendors like florists because it might hurt local businesses.

City staff has spent months researching ways to regulate food trucks after a contentious meeting in January in which food truck owners flocked to City Hall.

On Tuesday, staff proposed requiring food truck owners to apply for a permit that would cost $200 per event and limiting the number of food trucks to three per event — unless it was sponsored by the city or a residential area. Staff predicted the approval process might take as long as 60 days.

The suggestions drew criticism from Justin Pearson, executive director of the Institute for Justice, Florida Chapter, who said Sunrise may as well ban food trucks altogether.

Food truck owner Robb Muise had one word for the proposals: "Ridiculous."

Muise lamented that Sunrise canceled a food truck event last year after "Scuotto had his little hissy fit."

Sunrise City Manager Alan Cohen told commissioners the city was planning its first food truck event on Sept. 18.

Scuotto told Cohen he didn't want food trucks at a city event.

"We're allowing them to come in and not charge them anything," he said.

Kennedy chided the commissioners for taking a "protectionist" stance.

Kennedy said he pays the county $45 for an annual license that takes him 15 minutes to get.

"What Sunrise is doing is designed to thwart the effort," he told the Sun Sentinel.

Still, he's not giving up, he said.

Neither is Muise.

"I don't give up easy," Muise said. "I'm persistent." or 954-356-4554

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