FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The owner of a food truck out of Columbia City is suing a Fort Wayne food truck group, claiming it’s keeping her from operating at some events.
Kristin Spangle owns Urban Skillet and tried to join Fort Wayne Food Trucks, Inc. (FWFT), a non-profit group of food trucks that started last year. To join, a food truck operator fills out an application and meets with the group. The current members then vote in an anonymous online poll and Spangle did not get the majority vote needed to be a member.
“I do know she was invited to the meeting and she didn’t make it. She didn’t show up,” Lori Koble, the owner of food truck Who Cut the Cheese?, said. “We all get along and help each other out. [The lawsuit] is unfortunate.”
Now, Spangle’s filed a lawsuit against the group and its members claiming that because she’s not a member, she isn’t allowed to go to some events in the area which have an exclusive contract with Food Trucks Inc.
“Fort Wayne Food Trucks has never said if you’re going to use us you can only use us. That’s not how we work,” Phyllis Miller, FWFT’s president as of Thursday and owner of food truck Pizza Diva, said. “Any contract we do have is not written by us. It’s written by the host.”
One of the events listed in the lawsuit is Food Truck Fridays at the Girl Scout’s parking lot off Dupont Road.
“I have documentation that when I tried to book the event we were not allowed to come,” Spangle said. “They have exclusive rights at several places.”
An employee of the Girl Scouts did tell NewsChannel 15 Friday that they have turned Urban Skillet away because of an exclusive contract with Fort Wayne Food Trucks. NewsChannel 15 asked for a copy of that contract, but as of Friday evening, it had not been received.
“The Girl Scouts chose to only use Fort Wayne Food Trucks,” Miller said.
Spangle said she was also turned away from the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival in Auburn, Fort 4 Fitness and the Leo Art Festival.
“From what I understand, that’s from Food Trucks Inc.,” Spangle said.
Fort Wayne Food Trucks reiterated that any decision about allowing non-member food trucks would be up to the venue and event organizers, not the association.
“Some of the [events] she’s citing, there were food trucks not part of the association that were there and were involved and they didn’t get stopped,” Andrew Smith, co-owner of the food truck Affine, said.
In the lawsuit, Spangle claims her being turned away because of exclusive contracts broke Indiana’s law against restricting commerce and she’s suffered a loss of income and other damages to her business as a result. She’s asking for penalties of “threefold the damages” in her complaint.
“If they’re going to advocate and say they’re here for all the Fort Wayne food trucks, then why exclude in the first place,” Spangle said.
The Fort Wayne Food Truck Association, a separate group from Fort Wayne Food Trucks, Inc., posted the following on its Facebook page Friday:
I have been receiving a lot of private messages asking me to weigh in on the lawsuit involving local food trucks. As per our mission statement, the FWFTA believes that any truck operator that is licensed by the state of Indiana and certified by the Board of Health should receive the same representation in the industry and therefore should be a member of any association advocating on behalf of said operators. The FWFTA has been inactive for the past two years due to health concerns of our founder Jim Garigen. We had recently been asked to reopen the association so that we could advocate on behalf of ALL food truck operators as we did in the past. That request is being considered at this time.
“We’re not trying to hold anyone down or keep anyone out. That’s not what we’re about,” Smith said. He added he didn’t know why Spangle wasn’t voted into the group.
The vendors listed in the lawsuit have around 20 days to respond, Spangle said.
“The most disappointing thing is this is not only a lawsuit, it’s verbal, it’s social media, a full-on attack to not only Food Trucks Inc., but to us personally and that’s really sad,” Miller said.