A New Albany food truck owner said he is leaving town and that the city’s ordinance is a driving factor behind his decision.
Lewis Baker, owner of O’Lucky B’s Famous Nachos on State Highway 30 across from the hospital, said the city’s recently adopted food truck ordinance has presented him with problems.
Under the ordinance, food trucks cannot be left overnight at a location unless they are enclosed in a storage building.
Baker said it is too much trouble to move his business to a new location every day.
“All of the sudden it’s like they want me to move every day,” said Baker, 36. “It’s just too big of a hassle. I feel like it’s a minor, petty issue that kind of represents a bigger issue.”
He said he plans to open a business in Tupelo.
“It’s just a better opportunity that came about in Tupelo,” he said. “I hate to speak out on it too much, but it is what it is.”
New Albany Mayor Tim Kent said he is sorry to hear that O’Lucky B’s is leaving town.
“I hate to see anybody leave,” Kent said.
But the mayor does not think the city’s food truck regulations are too stringent and driving away business.
“He’s the only one I’ve ever heard complain about it,” the mayor said. “All you have to do is follow the ordinances, follow the rules.”
Asked if he thinks the city’s ordinance is driving away business, Baker said, “I feel like it does,” especially when it comes to food trucks.
Kent said it is not fair to other businesses that rent buildings for food trucks to be set up in a permanent location.
“We welcome food trucks, but they can’t set up camp,” Kent said. “They’ve got to leave at night . . . The whole idea is to keep them from having a temporary structure in a permanent location because of the building codes and fire codes and stuff like that. It’s just not made for a permanent structure.”
But Baker, who was born and raised in New Albany, said, “I understand rules and regulations, but some stuff is just ridiculous.”
Baker said moving from one location to another every day is “crazy.” He added that he pays rent at his current location and has all of his health inspections.
“I’ve got a lease agreement,” said Baker, adding that he pays taxes as well. “It’s not like I’m parked in the middle of the street downtown.”
Food trucks don’t want to move every day, said Baker, adding, “it’s just not worth it. I feel like it will deter any other food trucks from coming here. I just won’t do it.”
His business has been open for about a year and a half, and he said he stays pretty busy.
“Maybe I’ll come back if they change things,” Baker said. “I did kind of want to keep this spot. I didn’t plan on just moving anytime soon.”
But he said, “This is y’all’s city, y’all’s rules and regulations. I respect it.”
He said the only part of the city’s food truck ordinance that he disagrees with is the part about having to move every night.
“You don’t want to be moving a food truck every day if you don’t have to,” he said. “Why wouldn’t a city want a hotspot to bring in more business? I’m not going to buck the system too much.”
Eric Thomas, the city’s code enforcement officer, said the city’s ordinance was developed after looking at what other municipalities did.
“The other cities have basically the same rules,” Thomas said. “They’re mobile food vendors so they should be mobile.”
Thomas said there has been talk in New Albany of doing a “food truck day.”
The city of Tupelo does not require food trucks to move to a new location each day. Baker said Tupelo supports food trucks.
He said he wishes he could stay in New Albany. He said he could understand the city having a problem with his business if he were obstructing traffic or doing bad business. But he said that is not the case. He said he is located on private property.
Baker noted that Tupelo has a larger population and will provide him with a better business opportunity.
“I can go elsewhere and do even better, but I’m OK with the business I’m doing here,” he said.
Baker added that he is “just trying to provide for my family. I’m from here. I inspire a lot of people. I feel like a lot of people look up to me. I’m sorry to leave. Sometimes one door gets closed another one gets opened. I’m not mad.”
Baker said he has “no hard feelings,” but he can’t understand why the city of New Albany would not want to promote economic development.
He said he does not know whether other restaurants have complained about food trucks. But he said he is not trying to get rich but simply make a living.