Atlantic City Council unanimously rejected a resolution that would have put food trailers on the Boardwalk, potentially harming surrounding businesses.
The plan was to give Saks by the Seashore LLC exclusive rights to set up three trailers on the uncovered pavilion by the Comfort Station at New York Avenue for a yearly fee of $60,000. That is about a third less than many businesses currently pay in yearly rent.
As a result, council now will look into a way to have businesses within a 200-foot radius notified in advance in such situations, similar to the requirements for zoning and planning.
Councilman Steve Moore asked if a resolution would need to be passed to require that. City Planning and Development Director Keith Mills said it could be discussed.
"This could have been devastating to those businesses," Councilman George Tibbitt said.
Before the meeting, Tibbitt said council made it clear last month that it would not support such a move, but instead allowed at that time for a request for proposals to see what might go in the spot.
"If somebody has some game of chance or something like that, we'll definitely be open to that," Tibbitt said.
The food trucks would be in direct competition with about a dozen businesses within that two-block area.
Councilman Marty Small acknowledged that he was listed as a sponsor of the resolution. "We'll work it out. I'm not going to make any further comment about it," he said.
Esam Hussin, owner of Three Brothers Pizza Palace just across from the pavilion, said owners have been asking Atlantic City for help after losing business from a downturn made more severe by Hurricane Sandy.
"They use taxpayers' money to build that, then they're going to put their competition on it," Councilman Rizwan Malik said prior to the meeting, after receiving a copy of a petition signed by the surrounding business owners.
Hussin said he pays close to $70,000 for the 12-foot storefront he has been at since 2000. Another business, near Central Pier, has been there since 1998.
Also, the food trucks likely would need just one worker each, perhaps only the owner, said Leo Bougioukas, executive chef at Tommy's Seaside Grill & Pizza.
"What takes me eight people takes them one," he said inside the sit-down restaurant. "They have an advantage economically. If I close my doors, 12 people are out of work."
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