By Danielle Herman
Following a late-summer lawsuit, it’s business as usual for food-truck operators in Carolina Beach, which recently amended a controversial ordinance to welcome the vendors. Meanwhile Surf City, another coastal town about 45 miles up the coast in Pender and Onslow counties, is still wrestling with regulations for the industry.
Three Wilmington area food-truck vendors filed a lawsuit against Carolina Beach in August after the town passed a provision banning trucks not affiliated with local brick-and-mortar restaurants. A week later, the New Hanover County town with about 6,300 residents removed the provision. Vendors dropped the suit after the town officially amended the ordinance in October.
“[The food-truck owners] are very happy with this development,” says Justin Pearson, a senior attorney at Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm that represented the truck owners. “The biggest issue for them is they wanted to be able to accept invitations from certain businesses in Carolina Beach that wanted to invite them onto their property.”
The institute represented Harley Bruce of Poor Piggy’s BBQ & Catering Truck; Aaron and Monica Cannon of A&M’s Red Food Truck; and Michelle Rock of Momma Rocks Desserts and T’Geaux Boys. The lawsuit argued Carolina Beach’s provision violated three parts of the state constitution, including the guaranteed right for citizens to earn a living provided there is a reasonable concern for public health and safety.
Mayor Joe Benson says the town never intended to defy the constitution and that dropping the brick-and-mortar requirement was a necessary change. “Anecdotally, the locals embraced the change because, in essence, most people want more options,” he says.
Not all coastal towns support the trucks’ position. Surf City, with a population of about 1,850, is evaluating its ordinance regarding peddlers, which does not specifically address food trucks. In October, several restaurant owners argued food trucks should be more heavily regulated because they take away business. Surf City’s town attorney, Charles Lanier, is reviewing legal restrictions.
The descent of North Carolina’s once-powerful tobacco industry is evident in Farmville, where Pyxus International said it would lay off about 565 workers at a leaf-processing plant. Production will move to Wilson, where the company has a newer facility that prepares tobacco leaf for sale to manufacturers of cigarettes and other products. A small contingent of Pyxus workers will remain in Farmville working on special projects and storage, the company said.
Most of the Farmville jobs are seasonal. But tobacco’s history in Farmville — a town of 4,500 about 8 miles east of Greenville — makes the downsizing particularly poignant. Albert Coy Monk started brokering tobacco in Farmville in 1907, creating one of the world’s largest processors. The business went public in 1992, merged with Danville, Va.-based Dibrell Brothers to become Dimon in 1995, later changed its name to Alliance One International and moved its headquarters to Morrisville.
Earlier this year, the company rebranded as Pyxus. It has attracted buzz by expanding into hemp and cannabis, though declining tobacco use still takes its toll. In its most recent quarterly report, Pyxus said it lost $54.6 million compared with net profit of $1 million a year earlier.
— David Mildenberg