Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Food Fight Set on Siesta Key

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Food Fight Set on Siesta Key

Article excerpt

GUMBO MOJO TRUCK: Business associations are battling vendor's plans


Cheri Bonasto left teaching to pursue her dream of operating a high-end food truck on Siesta Key, the island community that she and her husband Tony fell in love with after getting married there four years ago.

She sees the Gumbo Mojo truck as a way to enhance Siesta Key's active social scene by offering upscale yet affordable fare to late- night crowds from nearby taverns.

But three business associations have a different view, calling the truck a threat to existing businesses and to Siesta Key's ambience.

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Siesta Key Village Association and the Siesta Key Association have all written letters objecting to a permit for the food truck, and have asked that street vendors be banned from Siesta Key altogether.

"These vendors are in direct competition with established Siesta Key businesses that have supported Sarasota County through years of property taxes," wrote Mark Smith, chairman of the Siesta Key chamber, in a letter to commissioners.

The Sarasota County Commission will decide Tuesday whether to grant the Bonastos a permit to sell food at the intersection of Canal Road and Calle Menorca -- a block from the key's main thoroughfare.

Bonasto says she is saddened and surprised by the controversy.

"We're local residents. We live on this island. And we think it's crazy we are not getting support instead of disgruntled opposition," Bonasto says. "No one from these organizations even tried to talk to us about their concerns. We're just amazed."

Beside competing with brick-and-mortar businesses, those who object to allowing the food truck say it would also create hazards for traffic and pedestrians.

County staff have determined the food truck would not interfere with vehicle or pedestrian traffic at the proposed site.

Whether food trucks are allowed on the key or not, they are becoming a staple in Sarasota, where 14 trucks have been permitted since 2009, county records show. …

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