CULINARY CURFEW: City reminds food trucks of closing-time rules

After a handful of violent incidents involving bar patrons gathered around the trucks parked in front of local watering holes, Trevor Vaughn, manager of tax and licensing for the city, said city staff looked into drafting rules requiring the trucks to close at 2 a.m., just like bars do

AURORA | City officials have a message for local food trucks: You need to shut down the grills and motor along well before local bars close.

After a handful of violent incidents involving bar patrons gathered around the trucks parked in front of local watering holes, Trevor Vaughn, manager of tax and licensing for the city, said city staff looked into drafting rules requiring the trucks to close at 2 a.m., just like bars do.

Turns out, the city already had rules in place requiring trucks to close up shop by 9 p.m.

Now, Vaughn said, city staffers are hoping to get the word out to local food trucks and bars that the feed wagons need to close by 9 p.m.

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More than a dozen customers stand in line for the Mile High Cajun food truck August 5, 2016. The food truck joined several others at Aurora Municipal Center for the food truck rodeo.

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More than a dozen customers stand in line for the Mile High Cajun food truck August 5, 2016. The food truck joined several others at Aurora Municipal Center for the food truck rodeo. Photo by Susan Gonzalez

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More than a dozen customers stand in line for the Mile High Cajun food truck August 5, 2016. The food truck joined several others at Aurora Municipal Center for the food truck rodeo. Photo by Susan Gonzalez

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Dan Salvesen stirs a giant pot of jambalaya inside the Mile High Cajun food truck August 5, 2016. The jambalaya is one of five sides the truck offers.

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Dan Salvesen stirs a giant pot of jambalaya inside the Mile High Cajun food truck August 5, 2016. The jambalaya is one of five sides the truck offers. Photo by Susan Gonzalez

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Preston Yoke, the owner of Mile High Cajun, starts the food truck with a screwdriver August 5, 2016. Mechanical issues with the truck pop up every now and then.

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Smiling as he jots down an order August 5, 2016, William Huszagh stands at the rear of the Mile High Cajun food truck as more and more patrons join the line.

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Dan Salvesen ladles up a bowl of grits August 5, 2016 inside Mile High Cajun, a food truck that specializes in New Orleans-style cuisine. The grits are one of the most popular items on the menu and typically sell out.

The goal, he said, is to make sure bar-goers stay inside as much as possible.

“In general, we are trying to limit the amount of activity that occurs in bar parking lots,” Vaughn said.

In several recent incidents, Vaughn said trucks actually stayed open well past the bar’s 2 a.m. closing time. That was a headache for police, he said, because it gave some patrons a reason to linger near the establishment long after they had too much to drink.

Police approached city staff about the food truck rules, Vaughn said, only for the staff to learn clear, strict rules were already in place.

Food trucks have become ubiquitous staples outside local bars and craft breweries in recent years, but Vaughn said the problems have largely been limited to bars — not breweries —the latter of which generally close up shop earlier and tend to attract less hard drinkers.

Even before the bars close, Vaughn said city staff would like to see bar-goers stay inside as much as possible.

“It’s a more-controlled environment inside the bar,” he said.

Once crowds start to gather outside, the risk of problems increases, he said.

In addition to food truck owners and other outdoor food vendors who the city is hoping to get the 9 p.m. closing time message to, Vaughn said they are reaching out to bars, as well.

And if problems persist in a bar’s parking lot, the bar could face issues when renewing their liquor license, he said.

At Two22 Brew just outside the Aurora city line in Centennial, food trucks are a common sight nearly every night of the week.

Owner and former brewmaster Paige Schuster said that, for a neighborhood brewery like hers, the trucks are pretty important because many customers are looking for a meal and a drink all in one spot.

“It’s really good for people who want to go out and don’t want to go too far from their house,” Schuster said.

In the three years the brewery has been open, she said they’ve never had a problem with rowdy customers outside near the food trucks.

“We’ve never had any issues and I’ve never felt uncomfortable, like it’s going to cause a problem,” she added.

Schuster said part of that may be because the brewery is only open till 9 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, unlike most bars which stay open until the legal last call at 2 a.m.

And, Schuster said, the brewery’s clientele are rarely looking to order food into the late hours of the evening.

When the brewery opened, Schuster said it was a challenge to get food trucks to make the trek to southeast Aurora and set up shop at Two22 Brew.

“It was hard to book food trucks. There wasn’t enough food trucks to go around,” she said.

That’s not the case anymore as the region’s food truck scene has boomed. Finding trucks isn’t a problem today and Schuster said she has trucks at Two22 six days a week in the winter months and seven days a week in the summer.

The challenge now, she said, is scheduling the trucks. Trucks tend to want to have a set day of the week when they come to a brewery, she said. That may work for the trucks, but the regulars who might come every Tuesday for trivia tend to want some variety for their dining, not the same truck every week.

No matter what, Schuster said, food trucks will continue to be an important part of the local brewery scene.

“Food trucks and breweries go hand in hand,” she said.