Downtown Port Arthur getting ‘Hungry’

Published 5:20 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2017

For the last six to seven years, Marvin Jimenez has been dreaming of the day when his food truck business, Me So Hungry 409, would take off in Port Arthur; and Friday afternoon, after all of the tedious paperwork was signed off and finished for his permit to operate at 124 Procter St. — as the first food truck with a home base in downtown—Monday was the day that dream was to come true. But, instead of opening for business and cooking good food for hungry people, his permit was revoked on Monday morning.

After jumping through hoops all afternoon on Friday, Jimenez left the Port Arthur Health Department with his temporary permit and three notarized signatures giving him authorization to use the public restrooms in the Health Department building, as the home base for his food truck has to be no more than 500 yards from flushable toilets and running hot water.

Monday, Jimenez said he got word from Health Department officials that they are not authorized to give permission for the use of their public restrooms because they do not own the building. Jimenez had previously explored a number of other options for the restrooms, including the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce, which is the building immediately adjacent to his property. He also checked with the Port Arthur Fire Department, Police Department, Museum of the Gulf Coast, Courthouse and City Hall.

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Jimenez said he was told by the PAEDC and the Chamber of Commerce that they are having new security measures installed that included a buzzer at the entrance, so that would be too much for them to have to buzz in patrons, assuming every patron of the food truck even needed a restroom during their visit. As far as the other options, he said he was told that the restrooms couldn’t be located across a major street. Jimenez said he was upset about that because that particular area of downtown has little major traffic to speak of, certainly not dangerous or speedy traffic that could be considered a danger to pedestrians in crosswalks with four-way stops at every intersection.

Jimenez said he was disappointed that he wasn’t able to begin cooking for his fellow Port Arthurians Monday, but he was more upset that he had gone through all of the procedures and been given authorization only to have it revoked at the last minute. He said he still had to make a living and had invested all of his money, time and efforts into getting the food truck business going — from purchasing and licensing the truck, having it wrapped with his logos and street designs, getting all new appliances, special insurance, preparing his custom menu, stocking the food, marketing and advertising and just being excited to begin living his dream of cooking for the people of Port Arthur. But, it was all for naught.

Risa Carpenter, the city’s public information officer, said city officials are reviewing the case and working toward a resolution. She also said that the intent is not to make it difficult for people to start businesses in the city, they just want to make sure all of the health codes and city ordinances are followed. They have not yet contacted Jimenez; but Carpenter, who was sympathetic to Jimenez’s predicament, said they want to move toward a workable solution with him. She said the last thing the city wants to do is make it difficult for people to start businesses in Port Arthur.

Late in the day, when Jimenez got word that city officials were looking into his situation and genuinely trying to reach a solution that included him doing business in downtown Port Arthur, he was elated and relieved that he had support and that people were going to bat for him, trying to find a solution.