Trimper's proposal to sell Chick-Fil-A on Ocean City Boardwalk clears first hurdle
A proposed partnership between Trimper's Rides and Amusements and the West Ocean City Chick-Fil-A franchise has cleared its first hurdle. Wochit
A proposed partnership between Trimper's Rides and Amusements and the West Ocean City Chick-Fil-A franchise has cleared its first hurdle.
Approval from the Ocean City Planning & Zoning Commission came during a January meeting, following a spirited discussion of the pros and cons of allowing a food trailer to the south Boardwalk property in a resort that doesn't allow food trucks to operate.
In a letter to Frank Hall, zoning administrator, Chris Trimper offered what he described as a "Chick-Fil-A outpost" — a trailer that would be backed into what is now the duck pond stall in the carousel building on the Boardwalk.
"There would be no cooking on the property, all prep work done at the restaurant kitchen," wrote Trimper, "and delivered to sales counter."
The trailer belongs to Chick-Fil-A, and franchise owner Hunter S. Caudill said the partnership is an experiment to see how well his products would be received on the Boardwalk. While subject to change, Caudill said the outpost will provide much of the same menu as a standalone site, including the signature chicken sandwiches.
"The Trimpers and I had the joint idea of running an alternative distribution point on their property," said Caudill. "We will continue to honor the Chick-Fil-A tradition of remaining closed on Sundays."
Very little of the trailer itself would be visible to customers, Trimper added. Customers would only see the service window and part of the interior of the trailer.
"The menu would be smaller than what is sold at the restaurant," Trimper said.
Because Ocean City does not allow food trucks, commission members discussed potential ramifications, including concerns that giving this proposal a green light might open the door to food truck operators — something they hope to avoid.
Commission member Palmer Gillis, however, pointed out a truck and a trailer are not the same thing.
"While you wouldn't necessarily want a food truck to operate without comparable support of the kind required for restaurants — restrooms, sanitary facilities — and without paying taxes the way a normal establishment would," Gillis said. "But the Trimper proposal is different because it would be located on a site with restrooms, on property that already offers other mobile food stands. There's no cooking on-site, and Trimper's pays all the taxes any brick-and-mortar company would pay."
Peck Miller, commission secretary, said at the Jan. 17 meeting other places have inquired about food trucks without success. Rosenfeld's Jewish Delicatessen tried to get approval for a truck to operate in Ocean City, but the answer was no, unless the wheels were gone and it sat on a foundation.
Crucial to the discussion for Trimper's is its location. The Trimper property is located in one of two large amusement overlay districts in the resort.
Because the requested usage falls inside this district, the commission decided the trailer use was acceptable.
"The amusement overlay district is really key," said Gillis. "That property already has other food stands for things like popcorn, cotton candy or lemonade, all of which are mobile. There's no cooking on-site, and restrooms and sanitation facilities are already in place."
Hall agreed, explaining his understanding that allowing this trailer to operate will not open any doors to self-contained, mobile food trucks.
However, "this is an allowable use only within the overlay district," Hall said. "But only for a trailer, not for a food truck."
Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, said her association had touched on the topic of food trucks in the past.
"This subject is on the agenda for our board meeting next week," said Jones on Tuesday, Jan. 30, "but my personal thoughts are that with the amount of taxes, including food, property and sales, paid by brick-and-mortar businesses, it is only fair for those actual brick-and-mortar businesses to sell food.
"However, that said, I think the Trimper's proposal is really quite unique, as it is on their property, for which they pay a huge amount in property, amusement, sales and food tax."
In the Trimper proposal, the trailer wouldn't be competing with any brick-and-mortar business, but instead would become part of the overall enterprise, which is already paying taxes.
The commission voted unanimously to allow the application to continue, Hall said.
This was the first of several steps before the proposed food trailer would be ready to go. The health department, fire marshal's office and various city departments all will need to weigh in and approve the proposal.
Any further approval processes will be handled by Caudill and his Chick-Fil-A restaurant, Trimper said.
"Our goal is to serve great Chick-fil-A products to Ocean City's Boardwalk crowds," Caudill said.