CMH Gourmand

Culinary Discovery & Misadventures in the Ice Cream Capital of the World (Columbus)

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Ray Ray’s 2.0: Two Trucks, Same Menu, Much Better Venue

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 1, 2012

It was a sad day for Baja Clintonville. It was a great day for Old North Columbus, Jaime Anderson, Ace of Cups and the SoHud Non-Industrial Complex. After an extraordinary run in an unlikely convenience store parking Ray Ray’s Hog Pit has moved on.

There is no need for me to write accolades about Ray Ray’s – 96% of your already know or have read about Ray Ray’s and wanted to go but never did. You now have many more reasons to drive just slightly south on High Street for the full Ray Ray’s experience. The BBQ master is now based at Ace of Cups. What does that mean? It means beer…good beer, a patio, a great live music line up and a bar that will be successful in a location that has repeatedly failed. It also means better parking, twice the BBQ output and a pairing of two business that were meant for each other. By combining their strengths, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Ray Rays and Ace of Cups is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, (the peanut butter and chocolate) of food pairings.

Marcy Mays is the owner and bartender in chief of Ace of Cups. You might have heard of her in a past life in the band Scrawl or maybe as a one of the founders of saloon called Surly Girl. She has taken a building that was a bank, that turned into a series of failed bars. It was a place that never seemed to come together. She is making it work while working fulltime and pursuing other projects at the same time. Ace of Cups has a ping-pong table to complement the patio and an inside menu, with vegan items to complete the carnivorous offerings of Ray Ray’s.

Jaime Anderson worked in the BBQ trade before finding a niche in a trailer that did great in an unwieldy spot. The secret to success: time, word of mouth and a commitment to the art and science of BBQ that polished this diamond in the rough. It worked. But not without some barriers. The biggest obstacles – some bull-headed bureaucracy and literally a handful of people who saw a small business person, running a BBQ operation in a trailer as a threat to their customer base or as someone who should be paying a higher rent elsewhere out of self-interest, not community good.

There is a downside to the story of Ray Ray’s 1.0. This is where the bureaucracy comes in. Jaime has a trailer. Pubic Health requires that a food trailer move every 45 days. There is some obscurely worded, arcane and unclear zoning and other city regulations that are inconsistently observed as requiring a trailer to move every day. From a health and safety standpoint – there is no support for this requirement. From a practical and pragmatic point of view the 24 hour rule is rarely enforced and often ignored but for some reason the microscope zoomed in on Jaime. Maybe he was too successful, received too much press or caught some bad karma. The 1% won against the 99% on this joust.

Jaime tried to get the city departments to explain to him why he had to tear down and set each day that he was in operation. He was only set up a few days a week so the possibility of being unsafe or unsanitary did not exist. Jaime continued to hit a brick wall fighting city hall and never received a real answer. He invested money and time, hired a lawyer and more. Eventually he had to give up, suck it up and waste three to five hours each business day setting up and tearing down for no good reason. In spite of this Sisyphean effort, he continued, thrived and has now moved on. For a point of record….there is another trailer business nearby which does not set up and tear down every day. There are several mobile businesses that dodge the hoops Jaime had to jump through. Is there some reason he was singled out? Whatever it was, he has moved on to a better place and Clintonville loses a bit of its character in the process. Fortunately, Ray Ray’s is still a short bike ride away from his original spot. The Ville will miss you Ray Ray’s but we could not think of a better spot for you. Thanks for being the peanut butter Ace of Cups. And now we watch a reason to visit Clintonville and discover our other independent businesses go away. Now Ray Ray’s is a side note in our community history of lost opportunities.

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6 Responses to “Ray Ray’s 2.0: Two Trucks, Same Menu, Much Better Venue”

  1. Dave said

    Nice post and sad bit of bureaucracy

  2. Tim said

    Is the 24-hour rule on Columbus’s books, or is it a Clintonville rule? I know it caused problems for Yerba Burna, whose moving was another tragedy for the Ville.

    CMHG Reply: The “24 hour rule” is not a health and safety rule, it is an interpretation of zoning and some other legislation that is rarely enforced – the most notable instances being Yerba Buena and Ray Ray’s when in Clintonville. When pressed to cite a specific line of legislation, etc. that defines the 24 hour rule…nothing of substance has been presented. If there a complaint, the city will act. The presence of Yerba Buena and Ray Ray’s on High Street in Clintonville was viewed as a threat to livelihood by a handful of individuals. These people did not see that these two highly popular dining destinations brought more people and diversity to Clintonville and in the long run would help other businesses grow. The problem here is short sighted self interest. Clintonville is a section of Columbus – not it’s own entity, so Clintonville can not “decree” a food truck policy. The health and safety requirement if moving is reasonable. However moving everyday is not based on health concerns and is definitely hurting independent businesses. There is Hustler Store on High Street but an effort was made to push food trucks away (we have several on Indianola that are never bothered….that is less than 1 mile away.

  3. Bob said

    CMH G. Comment: I usually respond after the comment, I am making an exception with this one. The comment below mind reflects the opinions of many in the community and those folks need to get out and vote and/or run for commissioner. That being said, The CAC – Clintonville Area Commission is an advisory body that has minimal influence of what has happened in Clintonville and has had no influence in regards to Food Trucks. I can say that at least three CAC Commissioners are very Pro Food Truck and willing to work with that community. I have met most of the CAC Commissioners and with a few exceptions, I have found them to be working hard for the interests of the community. Unfortunately, those few (or one) exceptions seem to carry more weight in the community. I will steer clear of politics but I will say that the best way for us to support food trucks is to eat at them when they are in our community (if they have a good product) and to educate others that have not had the experience about them.

    This move is yet one more example of why Clintonville area commission voters in the coming election should vote against any current commissioner or prospective commissioner who supports the existing commission leadership. That leadership shows no understanding of the needs and future of Clintonville today. They seem to equate the many similar vacancy signs along High Street near Whetstone park to a vibrant community.

    • Bob said

      One note, the CAC is, as noted, an advisory body. However, I’m told that city bureaucrats are likely to respond with examinations, inspections, and enforcement – sometimes differential – when called by a commissioner or commission leadership. Thus the neighborhood commissions have influence beyond their specific responsibilities.

  4. marc said

    Don’t be sad…
    Ray Ray’s is in a better place – Old North!!

  5. [...] Ray Ray’s at Ace of Cups [...]

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