New ordinance will force food carts in Raleigh to close up before bars do

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The last bite will come before the last call on Glenwood South. On Tuesday, the Raleigh City Council voted 7-1 to have pushcarts stop selling food at 1:15 a.m. instead of 3 a.m. The carts need to be removed by 1:45 a.m.

Alex Gromo, the owner of Fresh Outta Brooklyn, said he’s losing his busiest hour, which is 1-2 a.m. He said he’ll lose about 30-40% of his sales. 

“What they’ve done is akin to telling restaurants they can’t open from 12 noon ’till 1,” Gromo said.

Gromo said he has about five to six people in line at a time, and said that won’t make a dent in controlling the crowd. He points to people leaving the bars at once and waiting for rides as the crowd contributor.

“What they’ve done is hurt several small businesses, endangered several small businesses, who already were shut down for a full year during the pandemic, and now the city does this,” Gromo said. “Come on. Do your research, city council. This will have zero effect.” 

In the council meeting, a representative from the Raleigh Police Department said long lines at food carts keep people lingering as police try to clear the area, saying anything that entices the crowd to stay is “detrimental” to keeping the area safe.

“We’ve heard from the community. We’ve heard from the business folks on south. We’ve heard from RPD, who we tasked with giving us some solutions to the problem,” councilor Stormie Forte said. “They have indicated that the food carts operating after bars close is contributing, is an ongoing contributor, to some of the challenges they’re trying to address.”

CBS 17 has reported on the city’s efforts to control crowds and noise in the Glenwood South district, including increasing police presence, cracking down on parking violations, and adding scooter parking.

Ammar Jawad, president of Taste of New York, said about 80-85% of his business happens after 1:15 a.m. He runs six food carts, four of which are in Glenwood South. After closing for 14 months during the pandemic he’s afraid closing at 1:15 a.m. will eventually force him to close for good.

“We’re counting on the income coming from those carts to repay the loans and be able to provide for our families,” Jawad said.

He said his cart is not crowding the streets.

“People just stay here to wait for the ride, and while they wait, they may grab something to eat, but at the same time, our presence is not the main reason why they’re here,” Jawad said.

Councilmember Jonathan Melton was the one no vote. He told CBS 17 he voted against the change for a few reasons, including ignoring the need for access to late-night food, the change being out of proportion to the problem it looked to address, and most importantly affecting the livelihood of small business operators. He proposed moving the proposal to the committee.

According to the City of Raleigh, there are 35 permitted pushcart locations in the city, but only 13 are used, 11 of which are within Glenwood South.

The new closing time goes into effect on Dec. 16.

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