WATSONVILLE -- If you're hungry late on a weekend, roll into downtown Watsonville.
Starting Oct. 19, catering trucks will be allowed to peddle their wares next to the City Plaza on Peck Street from 9 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
The City Council on a 4-1 vote Tuesday approved the plan on a three-month trial basis to perk up a downtown that is mostly shuttered after 8 p.m.
"You should give us an opportunity," urged catering truck owner Jaime Rodriguez before the vote. "Our families do come and eat at our food trucks."
The action came two weeks after the plan stalled when Councilman Emilio Martinez proposed opening Peck Street to the food trucks three hours earlier to spur more competition downtown.
Since then, Marcela Tavantzis, interim community development director, said she talked with the owners of 10 area restaurants. None had objections to the late-night plan.
"Not a single restaurant received me happily with news of a 6 o'clock (start)," Tavantzis said, recommending the council stick with the initially proposed late-night hours. Most restaurants close by 9, and need to "grab every last customer" before then, she said.
Martinez was absent from Tuesday's meeting, and no downtown restaurant owners were present. But Fernando Munoz, whose parents own a Freedom Boulevard restaurant, spoke against the proposal. He said brick-and-mortar establishments have a hard time as it is, and have many more expenses than the food trucks. He suggested the trucks would be a magnet for gang activity and create litter. "You want food trucks in your backyard? I don't," Munoz said. "What's next? Lawyers out of trucks? Hairdressers out of trucks? How does Watsonville gain from that?"
Police Chief Manny Solano said he reviewed the proposal and didn't think public safety would be at risk.
Councilwoman Nancy Bilicich said she didn't see the benefit.
"If it's a success in some cities, it's because people are out shopping in the downtown. It's not the sole destination," she said. "We're going to have food trucks."
A council majority, however, was willing to give the idea a chance. Councilman Lowell Hurst said staff had spent hours studying the issue. He was prepared to support its recommendation.
"We can come back and look at it and see how it goes," Hurst said.
Mayor Eduardo Montesino said there are few choices for eating out beyond fast-food chains late at night.
"It's very hard to get a taco after 9 p.m.," he said.
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