- Associated Press - Sunday, October 8, 2017

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - When he laid concrete in Abingdon, Virginia during the 70s, Lonnie Rushing relied on food trucks for hot dogs and cold sandwiches.

These days, Rushing works for Fire Truck Bar-B-Que’s mobile vendor, which, like other food trucks, rotates to various areas around the Auburn University campus.

Sitting by the open window where he serves barbeque sandwiches and other foods to hungry students, Rushing recently speculated that it’s likely advantageous that the Auburn City Council approved an ordinance on Sept. 19 allowing food trucks to operate throughout the city.

“I’m sure they go to construction sites,” Rushing said. “I don’t know why anyone would be against it.”

The ordinance was passed under the condition that food truck vendors comply with local, state and federal regulations. Unless given written permission, trucks are not allowed to operate within 200 feet of brick-and-mortar restaurants” main entrances during their operating hours.

‘Good to have options’

A few feet away from Rushing near the Auburn University Student Center on Heisman Drive, Logan Sanders prepared Italian ice cream treats in the Scoops truck. Besides serving students on campus, he said the mobile vendor also has good business in the parking lot of the Opelika Sportsplex & Aquatics Center where parents often treat their kids.

“That would be good for people who can’t travel away from work, like construction,” Sanders said of Auburn’s food truck decision. “And it would give people more jobs because they’ll need people to cover the areas.”

Sam Johnston, manager of the Amsterdam Cafe food truck, said the truck previously served customers at a gas station near Moores Mill Road last Labor Day. Decisions to serve food around the city will be based on the market, he explained, given how students would likely remain the primary customers sought after off campus as well. He added how late nights in downtown will also be considered, particularly during popular times among bars.

“We’re glad that they’re letting us do it, that we’re getting the option,” Johnston said of the city’s recently passed ordinance. “And now we’re looking at the viability of operating off of Auburn’s campus. But our focus is Auburn University’s campus and its students.”

James Dimac, owner of the General Hibachi Truck, likewise said it was “good to have options,” as John Hammond, manager of the vendor, highlighted practicality factors between small and large trucks.

“A lot of these trucks run on generators, so they’ll have to have power spots,” Hammond said, also noting that food would have to be brought to trucks at designated temperatures to comply with health regulations. “Plus they’ll need a kitchen to prep the food and deliver it when they run out.”

‘Opens up more opportunities’

Students, too, welcomed the idea of food trucks having the opportunity to expand their routes of operation.

“I think for a lot of families coming into town for either games or just visiting. it’s just a good representation of something unique that Auburn does,” said Susan Medlock, a junior who gets a few food truck meals each week.

Freshman Jordan Dempsey hasn’t used food trucks on campus much, but knows “a lot of students that do.”

“I think it would be a cool addition,” Dempsey said regarding the prospects of food trucks operating in the city, “but I don’t think they’ll benefit as much as they do on the concourse.”

Chloe McGuire sporadically visited food trucks as a sophomore last year. She made her first stop at one this year, during which she noted how food trucks provide quick, convenient and unique meals.

“I like the idea of food trucks,” she said while discussing the city’s recent decision. “I think they’re really cool.”

“Oh, I love it,” said Jack Hutcheson, a junior who buys food truck meals once or twice a week and would “absolutely” stop at a downtown vendor. “That’s great. I think it opens up more opportunities for students and people in the community to get good food.”

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