Representatives of at least seven downtown restaurants showed up at a York City Council meeting Tuesday to protest a proposal that would allow more food carts in an expanded area of the city.
But they were denied access to the microphone during the council's public-comment period.
Vice President Henry Nixon, who chaired the meeting, said it is council policy to hear public comment about agenda-related items on the same evening the council plans to vote.
The proposal, which would increase the number of cart licenses from one to six and expand the food-cart district to several blocks surrounding Continental Square, was introduced Tuesday.
Because it is new legislation, the bill must sit for at least two weeks before the council can take a vote, which is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 17.
"You're allowing opposition only on the day of voting?" asked Ken Diaz, who co-owns Tasa, a new Filipino food stand in Central Market. "Doesn't make sense."
Nixon told Diaz there will be an opportunity to comment on Dec. 17.
With no one else stepping to the mic, Nixon adjourned the 6:30 p.m. public-comment session and held an informal discussion with the business owners before the council resumed its 7 p.m. legislative agenda.
Diaz said he's concerned the expansion of food carts will pave the way for food trucks, which, he said, could siphon significant money from brick-and-mortar restaurants.
"We're hurting," said Jessica Brooks, who owns the Ladybug Baking Company and Cafe, which opened in January at 33 N. Beaver St. "We're fighting for every dollar that comes through that door."
Brooks said she can't imagine the food carts will have a positive impact on downtown businesses.
She questioned why the council hadn't sought input from restaurant owners.
"None of us even heard about it until it hit the newspapers," Brooks said.
Nixon said the council has been working on the food-cart proposal for a while. Indeed, it's been a topic of discussion at the council's committee meetings since September.
The initial proposal increased the number of food carts to 12 but did not expand the district beyond the square. The idea to create a food-cart district -- bounded by Duke, King, Beaver and Philadelphia streets -- was discussed publicly for the first time last week.
"We're not rushing this thing through," said Nixon, who's been the proposal's primary proponent on the council.
Nixon also cited a survey distributed by Downtown Inc, the nonprofit group that promotes the city's business core, that was intended to gauge the opinions of restaurant owners.
Sonia Huntzinger, Downtown Inc's executive director, reported at an earlier meeting that only eight businesses responded to the survey.
Brooks, who said she's leveraged her home and financial stability to build a successful business, said she never got it.
"It's offensive to say that my life hangs in the balance because of this survey," she said. "Literally, my life hangs in the balance."
Jeremiah Anderson, general manager of the White Rose Bar & Grill, volunteered to organize the restaurant owners' opposition.
According to Downtown Inc, there are already more than 60 eateries downtown, said Joy Gillette, who co-owns Simply Soup in Central Market.
"Why are we not promoting those businesses?" Gillette said. "We're already trying to revive a city."
Nixon urged the business owners to read the legislation and deliver a cohesive message to the council.
"I think that's why we're here," said Annette Fisher, who owns Bair's Fried Chicken in Central Market. "The city -- it's growing. But if we grow too fast and we don't have the critical mass to support it, everyone's going to fail."
-- Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.