By Roger Brown
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) While this article focuses on the food truck scene in Jacksonville Florida, the issues regarding trucks vs. brick and mortar restaurants are familiar ones for many cities across the United States. Can traditional restaurants and food trucks truly work in harmony? Columnist Roger Brown takes a look.
Traditional, brick and mortar restaurants.
We want both in Downtown Jacksonville. We need both in Downtown Jacksonville.
But can both coexist in Downtown Jacksonville?
It is a big deal for Downtown Jacksonville’s present and future.
It sure is a big deal to Jeriees Ewais, co-owner of the Zodiac Bar & Grill.
On this weekday morning, there is an air of calm preparation as Ewais and some employees get ready to open the doors to the Zodiac — a fantastic Mediterranean restaurant that’s been an 18-year fixture on West Adams Street — for lunch.
But as he takes a brief break and takes a seat at a dining table, Ewais’ calm demeanor steadily become one that’s much more animated.
It’s because he’s talking about the havoc that he says food trucks are wreaking on traditional brick and mortar restaurants in Downtown Jacksonville.
“No question, they are really hurting the restaurant industry Downtown right now — and what’s even worse, they will keep new restaurants from deciding to come into Downtown in the future,” Ewais says.
“If I wanted to open an exciting new restaurant in one of the vacant properties we have Downtown — and just look around, we have a lot of them — why would I end up doing it?” Ewais adds.
“Why would I do it when I know that after I spend hundreds of thousands in investment, there will be five food trucks set up near me at lunchtime? Food trucks that don’t invest anything close to what I do but can still park near me, grab as much money as they can during lunch — and then drive away and do the same thing parked outside a nightclub that evening?”