Future Of Lexington Food Truck Movement Unclear As Leading Advocate Departs
With its president moving to Washington this week, the Bluegrass Food Trucks Association is disbanding.
But the organization’s chief spokesperson, Sean Tibbetts, says he and the association are leaving Lexington a very different place from the city it was just a year ago.
"We're actually really proud of the food truck movement here. The Lexington movement has been ranked nationally by a couple of different media organizations over the last year," he says.
While it’s unclear where the city’s food truck movement might be headed in the coming years, the advocate says progress has come rapidly for the group. At the start of Lexington's pilot food truck program in 2013, food truck operators numbered just four. Now the city plays host to more than 30 - and the Urban County Council has voted unanimously to extend the experiment through the end of 2014.
Objections from traditional restaurant owners downtown have also quieted. At a February council meeting, no brick-and-mortar restaurants testified against the program.
While Tibbetts is happy with the success, he says there’s more work to be done if food trucks are to become a permanent fixture.
"I really hope that someone picks up the torch on the political side of the house and continues to be a voice for the food trucks. I haven't seen anybody pick up that torch just yet, so that would be my concern - that just by not having somebody be that constant angry redhead in the city council meetings that they might slide backward a little bit on some of the things we achieved," he says.
Fellow food truck operator Matt Bradford has stepped up to keep an event called Food Trucks for a Cause up and running. He says the political situation has changed to the point where an association may no longer be required.
"Without a true leader that can be the voice, be the face of the franchise so to speak, I don't see that at this point in time," he says.
The vendors may regroup at a later date, he says, but for now many consider themselves independent businesses that will unite if and when the time is right.
Update/Clarification (5-29-14): Councilwoman Shevawn Akers, who has overseen the development and implementation of the city's pilot foot truck program, says a number of advocates, including Bradford, are prepared to continue the push in Tibbetts' absence. "The future of food trucks is perfectly fine," she says. "And without Sean, food trucks will continue to thrive in Lexington as they have for the past year."