Does Mayor Goodman have a conflict of interest vis-à-vis the Las Vegas food-truck ordinance?

Restaurant of Mayor’s husband located in heart of proposed food-truck buffer zone

LAS VEGAS — The City of Las Vegas will consider an ordinance placing new restrictions on food-truck vendors during tomorrow's City Council meeting, but Mayor Carolyn Goodman, the bill's main sponsor, may have a conflict of interest.

Goodman's husband, former mayor Oscar Goodman, has a contract with Oscar's, a high-end restaurant on the second floor of The Plaza Hotel that celebrates the former Mayor's life with pictures of Oscar and memorabilia including his former mayoral desk. Oscar's overlooks the intersection of Main and Fremont Streets, the center of the city's proposed buffer zone.

Mayor Goodman introduced the ordinance on July 18, originally proposing a 150-foot restriction. After further discussion and meetings with restaurant owners, Councilman Bob Coffin suggested an 800-foot restriction, arguing that the food trucks had an unfair advantage over restaurant owners who pay property taxes. Council members compromised on a 300-foot restriction, and Goodman sponsored the revised ordinance.

According to the public audio and minutes from the July 18 meeting, Goodman never disclosed that her husband's restaurant is located within the proposed zone.

Goodman declined Nevada Journal's request for comment on the subject. A spokesman for the Mayor's office said Goodman would rather wait for the Sept. 5 hearing and listen to public comment on the issue before addressing her own apparent conflict.

Council members originally scheduled a decision on the ordinance for the Aug. 15, 2012 meeting, but later tabled the hearing until Sept. 5. Numerous food-truck owners across the city said they plan to attend the meeting and voice their concerns over the ordinance.

"You'd never ask casinos to not operate within 150 or 300 feet of each other," said Jan Scarborough, owner of The Rusty Pickle food truck. "[The Rusty Pickle has] been asked to cater events by the city as well as other restaurants, and we've always felt we were enhancing the competition for quality food, not taking it away."

Colin Fukunaga, owner of the Fuku Burger truck as well as a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Los Angeles, says he sympathizes with traditional restaurant owners' concerns, and says he's met with local restaurant owners and lawmakers to try to work out the differences without government interference.

"My philosophy is to always try and work things out business-to-business, human-to-human, because as soon as the government gets involved, it complicates everything," said Fukunaga.

"I don't think [Goodman and the City Council] are openly trying to hurt us [food-truck operators]. I just think there's a lack of information about our business and an old 'roach coach' perception that affects how people think about our operation."

The updated version of the ordinance scheduled to be heard tomorrow carves out an exemption for food-truck owners who get “permission” to operate from the owner of the nearby fixed-location restaurant.

However, some food-truck operators still think the restrictions place an unnecessary burden on their business.

"If I'm selling food across the street from you, and your food's better than mine, then you win," said Mike Booth, owner the Sauced Las Vegas food truck. "We're not actively hunting other restaurants' customers. We just try and find a good location and sell some food."

Sarah Payne, Booth's wife who assists him with the food truck, says restaurant owners, especially at high-end restaurants like Oscar's, shouldn't need restrictions on food trucks because the business models are completely different.

"It's two different types of businesses," said Payne. "You don't go out of your house thinking, 'I want a restaurant' and see a food truck and decide to go there instead. You pick one or the other."

The ordinance will be heard during the Council's morning session beginning at 9:00 a.m.

 

Kyle Gillis is a reporter for Nevada Journal, a publication of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more in-depth reporting, visit http://nevadajournal.com/ and http://npri.org/.

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