DC Food Trucks Association Calls for District to Pass New Food Truck Regulations

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

From a DCFTA press release:

The Washington, DC Food Trucks Association (DCFTA) today announced its support for Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposed new vending regulations and asked the District to quickly pass the new rules.

“Overall, the proposed regulations are a significant improvement to the current rules,” said Che Ruddell-Tabisola, Executive Director of the Washington, DC Food Trucks Association. “We are asking our followers and fans to express their support for the proposed rules to the District before February 18, when the public comment period concludes.”

However, Ruddell-Tabisola said, the proposed rules also contain regulations that need to be addressed to ensure that they do not threaten new and innovative small businesses in the District:

Limiting Sweets Trucks to 10 Minutes: The proposed regulations allow dessert trucks to be open for only 10 minutes if there are no waiting customers. Sweets food trucks should be allowed to be open as long as savory food trucks.

Zoning of Food Trucks: The new regulations propose to create Vending Development Zones. The goals of these zones are worthy. However, Vending Development Zones must not be manipulated by special interest to create “Food Truck-Free Zones” that eliminate consumer choice or fair competition.

Shorter Hours for Food Trucks Than for Restaurants: The proposed regulations require food trucks to close at 10 pm on weekdays and 1 am on weekends. Food trucks should be allowed to be open the same hours as restaurants.

Do you agree?

19 Comment

  • I have no problems with regulating things like health and safety, ensuring the trucks are paying what they need to be paying in taxes, or making sure they are paying for whatever parking they’re using, etc.

    But as for regulating the nature of their business (stipulating hours, locations, minimum lines, etc.) I am against. If people didn’t want trucks, they wouldn’t patronize them. If they’re putting restaurants out of business, it’s because they’re doing people a service, and people are voting with their dollars. Maybe this should be the dominant (of course, it would never be exclusive) way of food service.. restaurants might go out of business, but the best would survive, and the freed retail space could be consumed by those who need it most..

    • You’re totally right, but I do think some restrictions should be in place because food trucks might bring in noise into neighborhoods at the wrong hours or be attractive targets at 3 am in the middle of no-where. The point is we shouldn’t be differentiating between sweet and savory and DC official’s greased palms shouldn’t be allowed to control too much.

    • Brick-and-mortar restaurants anchor and contribute to a neighborhood in a way that trucks, due to their transient nature, cannot. A burrito truck shouldn’t be able to abuse its lower overhead and tax rates by pulling up in front of a burrito restaurant and putting it out of business. I have no problem with food trucks in general, but there surely is a place for reasonable regulations to protect all parties, the public included.

      • What are the odds that the scenario you described is going to happen? Maybe some restaurants should go out of business. DC has its share of mediocre food and service. The good ones will not be affected that much.

    • –Restaurants are regulated on the hours they may be open, and so are food trucks. There could be very good regulatory reason to close a mobile shop – like you wouldn’t want a food truck in Adams Morgan at 3 am that keeps numbers of people milling about and eating on the streets of DC.

      –Sweets trucks are different than food trucks, and should be regulated differently. These regulations create 2 types of truck: food and dessert (which include not only 25$ cupcakes, but also the old fashioned ice cream trucks)

      –The zones should include regulations that state a food truck cannot park XXX feet near a restaurant if they serve the same foods (there was a southern food truck that used to park directly across the street from Georgia Browns).

      –“People want trucks” is great, but regulations are not about what people want. They are about safety, health, building codes/zoning and impact in the community (like regulations exist that do not allow a 2,000 person dance club to be located next to a school). If there were no regulations, capitalists would do whatever they want to make a buck, and damn the rest. People want alot of things… too bad (or thank goodness) life isn’t about getting everything you want simply because you want it.

      That foodtrucks will be the dominant way of (outside the home) food service is a very funny idea.

      • I agree that they should be regulated but there could be a better example than the Adams Morgan one (since people are already throwing up all over the place and being obnoxious at 3am on weekends there). Perhaps there could be some ‘zones’ where food trucks are allowed to stay open for the late night crowds just like, say, the new burger place on 14th is open until 5am (did I read that correct in the earlier post?!). I do know that I don’t want them in residential areas with loud crowds and litterbugs dropping their trash all over DC neighborhoods… we have enough of the latter without the trucks.

        I definitely do not agree that there should be a regulation about how near/far away they park from a restaurant with similar food. That just sounds unrealistic. I would hope that the food truck culture and restaurant culture would have some unspoken code of conduct that so they can respectfully stay out of each other’s ways.

        I haven’t heard/read a good reason as to why sweet trucks are different than savory. Are restaurants treated with that distinction (i.e., FrozenYo versus a sit down or savory takeout place)? Honest question.

        Frankly, my main concern is that all restaurants and food trucks meet health code… yeah yeah, I know, that can be a lot to ask for… 😉

        • I use Adams Morgan for a reason: that is where late night food trucks WOULD gather if they were allowed to do so. And it would be awful for the residents of the neighborhood – it would be worse than it is now. The bars would welcome the trucks, and the bars rule this neighborhood with little concern for their businesses effect on others. I wish to improve Adams Morgan, not leave it as a shitty strip for drunktards and nightfighters and have the rest of the city abandon this neighborhood with the “we’ll be the next Adams Morgan!” complaints.

          Food v. Dessert is an easy categorical break – and was probably done to ensure the old fashioned ice cream trucks regulations are still in effect. Ice cream trucks cannot sit and wait – they must move around if they have no customers, so the city (wisely) put the dessert trucks in with their similar vendor regs. And, different rules may be because food trucks take time to prepare food, dessert trucks do not.

          Regulating the distance from a restaurant is needed. Thinking a business would “respect a culture” is unrealistic. Handshakes and promises go by the wayside when money is in play. And food trucks already have parked by restaurants that serve the same menu. This is regulated for food carts. A burrito stand cannot set up outside a mexican restaurant. A hot dog cart could.

          • Re: Adams Morgan, like you said I think the bars already rule that neighborhood so it’d take a ‘anti-AdMo-bar-lobby’ bigger than the bars to keep the trucks out. And I think that is unrealistic but stranger things have happened. Good luck getting Adams Morgan on the right path… I’m with you there.

            Thanks for explaining the difference between dessert/savory. It’ll be interesting to see if this changes since I would imagine some of the dessert trucks still have to take time to prepare something instead of pulling ice cream out of a freeze. I’m sure there’s some hipster truck out that promises only the freshest of fresh ingredients that people are willing to wait 45 minutes for… 😉

            As for the last point re: distance regs – we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I think that option, like I said, is unrealistic. I would welcome being wrong about this one but I think it’s unrealistic, namely, when it comes to regulation enforcement. Like you said, when money is in play things are different. I think putting a reg on this might deter some trucks while other trucks could care less, know they won’t get caught, and will still park there to make their $$. I also think it’s an inconsistent idea – takeout restaurants line the streets right next to each other. People have their own choice to make about food. Survival of the fittest (and best restaurant).

            Thanks for the info!

    • brookland_rez

      I agree, the market/food truck operator should decide things like business hours, etc.

  • In Philly, Food Trucks served a purpose: quick access to cheap food, generally in areas that were under-served by restaurant options. They were ubiquitous around UPenn where they were necessary to serve the huge demand. I think the same should apply in this case. However, if they are impacting restaurants, then it is a problem because you are going to deter restaurants from investing in an area if they are competing with both other restaurants and a street full of food trucks. I do think the restaurant owners are going overboard with their paranoia, but at the same time, food truck zoning should be intelligent and CONSUMER oriented.

  • ideas:

    Paint all food trucks red and white.

    Liquor trucks.

  • Food trucks that come into my residential neighborhood trying to attract the late night coming home from the bars of H. Street/Atlas theater district are going to have a hard time persuading me they belong out there and not cleaning up the mess their patrons strew all over the block as they stumble home. They are like McDonalds and Burger Kings on wheels and they make a mess of the neighborhood

  • I think the DCFTA ought to be encouraging the government to require them to collect sales tax. That’s my biggest problem with food trucks – they are a group of mostly suburban businesses parking on the streets of DC, and not even collecting sales tax for us. It makes it tough for me to be on their side.

  • The tax issues is silly. No food truck cares if they had to add on sales tax – this is a ‘pass thru’ tax – it isn’t something that should be used as a mantra over and over again. Talk to the DC Tax & Revenue office – they have said that they cannot do it due to the sheer number of vendors in the city – not just food trucks, but carts, t-shirts, etc. Do your homework people.

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