Published: Feb 03, 2008 09:28 PM
Modified: Feb 03, 2008 09:28 PM
CARRBORO -- Town leaders are trying to keep some of Carrboro's favorite fast-food stops in business.
Not the McDonald's or Burger King variety.
They're taco trucks, or loncheras, that have been selling gorditas, burritos, tostadas and tacos stuffed with barbecue pork, shredded beef and tongue.
They park at night on lots outside Fitch Lumber and Cliff's Meat Market on North Greensboro Street and Johnny's on West Main Street. Customers line up before they open for business and eat their tostadas standing or order a couple of tacos to take home for dinner.
But for about 10 days last month the familiar white trucks with the big flip-up side windows disappeared.
The town had received an anonymous formal complaint, citing a town prohibition on mobile food vendors parking in lots.
The only exceptions the town had made were for members of the Carrboro Farmers' Market who park at Town Hall, said Marty Roupe, Carrboro's development review administrator.
On Jan. 17, the town issued a first letter of violation -- a warning -- to the three property owners letting the loncheras park outside their businesses.
The notice gave the vendors seven days to stop selling.
Loncheras have become popular across the Triangle as the Latino population has grown. In Raleigh, before a new policy tightened restrictions, many loncheras parked along downtown's Fayetteville Street. Some visited construction sites during weekday lunch hours. A few sold food outside nightclubs, weekend soccer games and other spots. The new rules prohibit the taco trucks from becoming fixtures and have made them more sparse.
In Durham, mobile food vendors can park their trucks in the Central Business District, which is mostly downtown, and at construction sites.
After about 10 days, Carrboro's taco trucks returned last week, assured they wouldn't be fined until the town reviews the rules.
Esmael Santillano, who runs one of the two loncheras outside Johnny's, has been there about a year. He returned Monday. "I was a little afraid, and sad, because I couldn't sell my tacos," Santillano said Wednesday evening in English and Spanish. "Many Spanish people are looking for tacos. In the restaurants, it's very expensive. Taco trucks are cheaper. This is fast food."
Cliff Collins, owner of Cliff's Meat Market, has allowed one truck to park outside his store for several years, mainly because the owner of the lonchera is one of his employees.
"It's a little extra money so he can feed his children and give them things he likes to give them," Collins said.
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