Just a week after CapMac food truck called it quits, the owners of Cirque Cuisine are taking their truck off the road as well. Thursday will likely be the last day for the truck, which was known for its regularly rotating organic meals and former-clown founders.
Sean Swartz and Jessica Shields say the main factor in their decision was the introduction of new food truck regulations, which passed this summer after a long and contentious fight. Beginning Dec. 1, the city will roll out “mobile roadway vending zones” that designate places where trucks are allowed to park. The trucks have already entered a lottery system to determine which parking spaces they’re allowed to vend from for the month. That’s where the worries started for Swartz and Shields: two of the five days of the week, they were assigned to locations (Farragut and the State Department area) where they had never really gone to and had never built a following. Fridays, they didn’t even get a spot in the assigned vending zones, meaning they have to stay at least 200 feet away from the zones.
“It’s just too much,” Swartz says. “We spent three years really fighting really hard to develop a real faithful and loyal following at the locations that we go to and people know us and expect us to be at certain locations on certain days.”
Their frustrations were fueled further when Swartz and Shields had to bring in all of their staff to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to get new licenses. “That itself was a logistical nightmare,” Swartz says. “Every time you go in there, you get told something different…It’s just a typical D.C. bureaucratic nightmare.”
Shields adds: “All there is is red tape, and it’s just exhausting.” Her voice cracks when she talks about having to let Cirque Cuisine’s five staff members go. “They all have to look for other jobs now,” she says.
The Cirque Cuisine owners say they plan to put their truck up for sale. In the immediate future, they plan to focus on their catering business. Ultimately, they’d like to open up a brick-and-mortar location, but right now, they don’t have the money. They are looking to attract investors and gain support from their followers, possibly through some sort of crowdfunding campaign. Shields and Swartz are also floating the idea of a Cirque Cuisine cookbook because of the regularity that patrons would ask them for recipes.
“By no means is Cirque Cuisine giving up,” Shields says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery