Mayor Gray Proposal Threatens Food Trucks Downtown

Proposed Regulations Would Hurt District Residents and Workers by Limiting Choice and Competition

Oct. 18, 2012 -- If Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposed new food truck regulations were adopted they would threaten food trucks throughout downtown, the Food Truck Association said today.

“Food trucks are good for our community and our economy,” said Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the Food Truck Association and Co-Owner of the BBQ Bus food truck. “We are offering our customers variety and great cuisine at great prices, adding to the vibrancy of downtown and creating hundreds of jobs. These benefits could be lost if Mayor Gray’s proposal was adopted.”

Mayor Gray’s proposed rules, which were published on Oct. 5, also grant new, sweeping powers to an unelected agency, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), to decide where food trucks can and cannot vend.

“DDOT’s intent is to balance the multiple needs and uses of public space. We too are members of this community and support that goal,” said Mike Lenard, a Food Truck Association board member and owner of the TaKorean food truck. “However, these proposed new rules do not achieve that goal.”

Under the proposed regulations, the government would pick and choose the limited number of locations where trucks can vend by establishing Mobile Roadway Vending locations. Although these locations are good news for the few trucks that can snag a spot, other food truck vendors will undoubtedly be forced out of downtown. The proposed rules would even ban food trucks from vending on opposite sides of the same street.

“Establishing Mobile Roadway Vending locations could cut the number of food trucks in some of the most popular mobile vending areas by half,” Ruddell-Tabisola said. “One area of particular concern is 21st and Virginia Streets NW, which has no brick-and-mortar restaurants but a large number of District workers who regularly eat from food trucks conveniently located right outside their offices. Our trucks, by serving these people and keeping them out of their cars, help reduce city congestion. It makes no sense for an administration dedicated to the environment to take that away.”

The proposal would also ban food trucks from serving their customers if there is less than 10 feet of “unobstructed” sidewalk. But the regulations do not specify what qualifies as an “obstruction,” and there is concern that the District could use this unyielding provision to block vending in large parts of downtown. There are numerous locations where trucks currently vend adjacent to sidewalks that are less than 10 feet without impeding pedestrian traffic. Applying an arbitrary and unnecessary width restriction would eliminate good vending locations for no valid reason.

“The proposal to eliminate food trucks where there is less than 10 feet of “unobstructed sidewalk” is vague, open to multiple interpretations and potential enforcement abuse,” Ruddell-Tabisola said. “The rules should be clear so that everyone has the same understanding of what they mean.”

“We should be working together to improve choices, quality and value for customers – not limit them,” Lenard said. “The Food Truck Association is committed to continuing to work with the District to adopt food truck regulations that are fair and balanced and preserve consumer choice and competition. We look forward to submitting our own proposal in the coming weeks.”

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