Young and Hungry

Cirque Cuisine Plans to Shut Down, Citing New Food Truck Regulations

Y_H_Food_truck-1

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

Comments

  1. #1

    This really sucks! I looked forward to their truck at Metro Center on Fridays. The food is great. By far, my favorite food truck.
    Thanks DC Council, thanks a lot.

  2. #2

    Real businesses have been dealing with the corrupt and incompetent Government for decades. But God forbid their little truck has to park at Farragut Park instead of Metro Center. Must be nice to be able to go running back to mommy in Virginia instead of adapting to the same convoluted business processes we all have to deal with. If they think a little Ice Cream truck is tough, good luck with a restaurant. Yes, great job DC Council, weed out all of these guys.

  3. #3

    Damn Chris, just because Jessica wouldn't give you her number doesn't mean you have to be all mean about it, jeez

  4. #4

    Chris, I'm in awe. Somehow you have acknowledged that the DC government is corrupt and incompetent while managing to assign the blame on business owners who are unwilling or unable to put up with it. That is quite a rhetorical feat. Bravo.

    How about a little sympathy for business owners who invested a lot of time, money and sweat into offering a service to district residents and workers? Maybe we should demand more than incompetence from DC government?

  5. can't knock the hustle
    #5

    Chris. Sit down. Grown folks are talking.

  6. #6

    Sean was born in DC, attended DC public schools, resides in DC and served honorably as a US Marine in Desert Storm. What's this about running home to Virginia?

  7. #7

    Chris, you're an idiot. Do you work for the council?
    The DC govt does not tell restaurants what neighborhood they can open in each day of the week. A restaurant rents from a private landlord wherever they choose and can operate there as long as they choose as long as they have the proper licenses.

  8. #8

    Unbelievable - and so disheartening. Now, if the DC Council was smart, they should habe reached out to other cities with huge food truck communities.

  9. #9

    Restaurants do open and shutter all the time. Now it's happening to a food truck.

    He didn't have a base of support near Farragut so they call it quits, complaining that they couldn't get in the exact location they wanted?

    Oh ok....

  10. #10

    IS THE FINE TOO HEFTY TO STAY AT LOCATION W/CLIENTELE?

    THERE SHOULD BE CERTAIN TIMES FOR VENDOR PARKING AND THE OLD TIMERS SHOULD HAVE FIRST RIGHT OR REFUSAL FOR PRIME SPOTS OR NEWCOMER MUST PAY PENALTY FOR GRABBING UP PRIME SPOTS.

    WANT PRIME LOCALE PAY MORE TO POST UP THERE INSTEAD OF 2ND TIER SPOT.
    WANT TO JUST PARK ANY WHERE SET STANDARDS AND LOCATIONS.
    I DUNNO IT DOES SEEM LIKE D.C. BOBBLED THE BALL ON THIS ONE.

    ALL THE STAFF LICENSED?? WOW!
    I'M ON BOTH SIDES OF ISSUE.
    YOU DON'T WANT BOOTLEG TRUCKS MAKING IT BAD FOR EVERYONE ELSE SO I CAN SEE THE LICENSING BUT SOMEBODY GOT BOUGHT OFF FROM RESTAURANT LOBBY BY INITIATING EVERYONE GETTING PAPERS. ONLY COOK AND/OR OWNER SHOULD.

    SET GUIDELINES, POLICY AND PROCEDURES FOR EVERY TRUCK TO FOLLOW. HAVE ROTATING INSPECTORS SO NO ONE GETS PAID OFF FOR LOOKING OTHER WAY.

    I DON'T DO THE CIRQUE TRUCK BUT IF RED HOOK LOBSTER PACK IT UP WE GONNA HAVE SOME PROBLEMS!!!!

  11. #11

    I am bummed to hear this. This is one of the few food trucks with delicious AND healthy cuisine!

    Do the Kickstarter, Cirque. We'll support you!

  12. #12

    Chris D,
    I am one of the owners of Cirque Cuisine. I hate to even acknowledge your comment but it seems as though you don't have any idea of what type of food we serve. (hint its not ice cream) We have spent the past three years developing a loyal cliental by going to the same spots on a weekly basis serving up a menu that changes every two weeks with locally sourced organic ingredients. These new regs aren't just telling us where to park but what days of the week we can actually work in a "mobile vending zone" For example, not only were we allowed to go to only two of our regular spots but we weren't allowed to go to any "mobile vending zone" on Fridays. We employed 5 people and like any business had a budget based on sales forecast. By the DC Gov't dictating where and what days we can work our forecast became worthless. Jessica and I started this business as a labor of love but to stay in business we need to make a profit. The new regs have limited our ability to do so.

    The fact that you say "great job" to the dc council for weeding us out also speaks volumes about you and how ignorant you are in regards to our business model. Please take look at our Yelp reviews. We sold on average 200 covers a day in a period of two hours. Tell me what restaurant does that.

    Lastly your attack on Jessica is immature and baseless. If you have an issue with her or me please feel free to reach out to me directly. Unlike you I included my full name and my email is sean@cirquecuisine.com I am looking forward to hearing directly from you. I hope that you read and respond.

    Thank you for everyone else for standing up for Jess and our business.

  13. #13

    I love your response, Sean. Chris D. was out of line.

    Good luck with the next chapter/venture!

  14. #14

    CC, I hope you'll come back! I work near Franklin, and miss your amazing food.

Leave a Comment

Blogs Linking to this Article

  1. Kevin Barry at Warehouse Theatre, Jason Mendelson at The Dunes: ToDo ToDay - Arts Desk

    [...] Cirque Cuisine Plans to Shut Down, Citing New Food Truck Regulations District Line Daily: Cocaine Congressman Listen: New Music from Nitemoves and Ploy Morning Links Arts Roundup: Public Art Edition [...]

  2. Restaurant Friendly DC Food Truck Regs Shut Down Another Truck | Mobile Cuisine | Gourmet Food Trucks, Carts and Street Eats

    [...] Find the entire article by Jessica Sidman at washingtoncitypaper.com <here> [...]

  3. District Line Daily: The People Issue - City Desk

    [...] Down: Food truck Cirque Cuisine will shutter this week, citing new food truck regulations as the [...]

  4. New Food Truck Regulations Begin Monday « Street Food Locator

    [...] food truck has quit the business because of the hotly contested regulations. As Young and Hungry reported, Cirque Cuisine shut down, citing the lottery system that placed them in two locations where they [...]

  5. Linkluster Year of the Consulship of Pius and Pontianus | Hit Coffee

    [...] in DC is taking down a food truck [...]

Comments Shown. Turn Comments Off.
...