Downtown Scranton Food Fight

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SCRANTON -- Many restaurant owners in Scranton wish the newest businesses would drive themselves out of downtown. The fight between brick and mortar restaurants and food trucks has come to a fever pitch and now city council is stepping in.

People on both sides of the restaurant/food truck debate are expected to be at a city council meeting to listen as council members mull over some possible amendments to the city's current food truck rules.

Sometimes downtown Scranton can look more like a street fair at lunchtime. Over the past year or so, food trucks have become a common sight in a place that's already full of food selections.

Dominic Saadi has owned and operated City Cafe in downtown Scranton for six years. He has a specialized menu that people will travel for, but still he believes the traveling food vendors are hurting his business. He said something has to change. He's one of a growing list of restaurant owners asking city council to change the food truck rules to keep them out of downtown.

"As long as they keep a safe enough distance and don't park directly in front or within a short distance of the restaurants, they have to earn a livelihood as well, but it's an unfair advantage, I believe," said Saadi.

Scranton has an ordinance regarding food trucks. They have to stay 100 feet away from any established restaurants, and they have to pay an annual fee, but that ordinance started becoming more controversial when food trucks became more popular.

What The Fork is one of those popular trucks, and the owners are on the defense in the food truck debate.

"I think the places where we're willing to make sacrifices aren't on the same page as what we're looking for," said Mario Bevilacqua.

Mario Bevilacqua and his employees at What The Fork try to play by the rules, usually setting up a few miles away from downtown and then putting their location on social media. They're willing to pay a higher fee or have a curfew, but they don't want to be barred from downtown.

"For us it would be detrimental. We can come here; we have a pretty good following. We would be able to capture or audience elsewhere, but I think it's about the idea in general and for the rest of the mobile food service vendors, we can be a voice for everybody," said Bevilacqua.

The folks from What The Fork started an online petition in support of the food trucks this week and already have thousands of signatures. There won't be any changes to the ordinance from city council for a few weeks; they're discussing it formally for the first time Thursday night.