Each Monday night, a caravan of food trucks pull into downtown Hollywood, and line Young Circle, offering a menu of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. Families plop down on extra-large blankets and picnic on the finger food.
Just across from the circle, restaurants with sit-down service and napkins serve patrons everything from New Orleans cuisine to upscale Italian food.
Over the last year, the food trucks have attracted more than 1,800 people every week, and while most would call that successful, some business owners and city leaders say they need to make some tweaks.
The concern: People are coming just for the food trucks and leaving before strolling the streets of downtown, and going into the stores and restaurants.
“If we can tap into the success of the food trucks to bring people downtown, then we are in good shape,” said Commissioner Peter Hernandez, who said the issue will go before the city leaders at a future meeting.
One of the ideas floated is to move half the food trucks to 20th Avenue and keep the other half at Young Circle, forcing people to walk several blocks down through downtown Hollywood to see them all.
“I think the event is very successful,” said Hernandez. “But I don’t want to hurt our businesses that pay taxes to the city.”
At about 5:30 p.m., 20 trucks start lining up around the perimeter of the park, only a short walk away from the downtown business district. The free parking spots along Hollywood Boulevard and around the circle fill up easily.
“They are using our parking, but they are not coming into our businesses,” said Chris Eberle, who is the owner of the Big Easy Bar & Grill and the president of the downtown Hollywood Business Association. “We want to make this work for everyone.”
While many people do bypass downtown and opt to go to the food trucks, some people say it really depends on what they are in the mood for.
“We want to sit down and be served,” said Dominic Guido, who was strolling Hollywood Boulevard with his date Grace Hillestad looking for a restaurant. “We saw the food trucks, but that’s not what we came here for.”
On the other hand, Meredith Borg said going to Hollywood’s ArtsPark for the Monday night food truck event is a perfect outing for the family.
“This is better for the kids than a restaurant,” said Borg who is from Dania Beach.
Peter Perrone, the owner of Perrone’s Cucina Italiana, which is close to where the food trucks set up shop, said the event gives his business exposure.
“The only way it affects us is the parking,” he said. “People who are coming here aren’t going to switch and go to the food trucks.”
Food truck owners say their business is not meant to hurt restaurants and hope to continue to be able to gather at the ArtsPark.
“It’s completely different,” said Ivan Breger, who owns Joji, a frozen yogurt truck. Breger said the food truck business attracts a different crowd than restaurants and can only help the area.
“If anything, we are bringing people down here,” he said.