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Area sign printers are struggling to keep up with demand Tuesday as dozens of downtown business owners have placed orders for “out of business” signs.

A rash of downtown restaurants abruptly closed their doors this morning after a food truck parked in the downtown area and sold tacos for about two hours on Monday night. As many food truck opponents had predicted, the presence of food trucks completely upended the downtown economy, shuttering business after business and nearly wiping out the once-vibrant district.

“All I wanted to do was share my delicious tacos with a few bar-goers,” said Randy Russell, owner of the Nomadic Eats food truck. “If I would have known the consequences, I would never have had the gall to be an entrepreneur and innovator.”

The Nomadic Eats truck parked outside The Vault, located at 200 South Alcaniz Street, from 10 p.m. Monday night until around midnight. By morning, the shockwave created by the truck’s mere presence had rippled through downtown, running at least a dozen restaurants out of business and prompting an army of food trucks to descend on the area. As predicted, the arrival of food trucks has also ushered in a wide array of truck-based businesses, including a mobile women’s clothing boutique and hair salon truck, prompting similar brick-and-mortar businesses to shut their doors.

“I told you people,” said Wilmer Mitchell, patriarch of downtown entertainment complex Seville Quarter and longtime food truck opponent. “Everything I predicted is coming true. Even the completely ridiculous things that I pretty much made up.”

Among the dozens of truck-based businesses setting up in Pensacola Tuesday was a convoy of five modified 1974 Winnebago Chieftain motorhomes, which billed themselves as “boutique mobile bed and breakfasts” as they opened for business in the UWF Historic Village. “These campers are a blight on Pensacola’s rich historical landscape,” said UWF vice president Brendan Kelly. “They’re almost as un-historic as our weird plan to shoot lasers down Zaragoza Street at night.”

Travis Peterson, a lobbyist for the Downtown Improvement Board, said Tuesday that he felt vindicated amid the complete collapse of the downtown district. “A lot of people were shocked when the DIB came out and opposed entrepreneurship and advocated against free-market economics,” Peterson said. “But we knew how dangerous and destructive food trucks were.”

At press time, city officials were moving forward with plans to condemn and demolish dozens of buildings throughout the downtown area, replacing them with food truck plazas and additional on-street parking.

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This post has been sponsored by the Azalea Cocktail Lounge. A Pensacola original since 1947, the Z is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. seven days a week at Davis & Cervantes streets in Pensacola.

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