Food Truck Association Says: “Proposed Food Truck Regulations Would Make Food Trucks Illegal in Most of Downtown”

by Prince Of Petworth March 28, 2013 at 10:30 am 76 Comments

Map of Proposed Regulations
Click map to enlarge

From a press release:

Food trucks will become illegal in most of downtown if Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposed new regulations are passed, said the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan of Washington, who today released a map showing the impact of the proposed regulations.

“The proposed regulations have one outcome – less choice and competition for District resident’s dollars and less food trucks just where residents want them the most,” said Doug Povich, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Food Truck Association and Co-owner of Red Hook Lobster Pound-DC. “The proposed parking restrictions have little to do with protecting public health and safety, and everything to do with restricting competition and consumer choice.”

Mayor Gray has proposed severe restrictions on where food trucks can serve customers, including:

Restricting food trucks in the most popular locations – with the exception of a limited number of lottery-assigned designated spaces;
Banning food trucks from serving from within 500 feet of lottery-assigned spaces;
Banning food trucks from serving where there is less than 10 feet of unobstructed sidewalk.
A map by the Food Truck Association shows the proposed regulations would make most of the Central Business District off-limits to food trucks – highlighted in red on the map.

“Red means dead.” “Food trucks who do not win a lottery spot will have few places to go,” said Povich. “The bottom line is that, if enacted, the proposed regulations will severely limit consumer choice, force many food trucks out of business, and put many food-truck employees out of work.

“Simply put, these regulations will hurt the city, ” Povich said. “The District will lose hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue. And DC residents and workers will be left with fewer choices and less opportunities for their dollars.”

  • Anonymous

    Actually, this makes it seem that they may be more spread out than they are now. This means there is driver for them to park near my work – because they don’t now. So, if this goes through and the trucks migrate to all the allowable areas, they may get more customers from people like me who have no interest in walking 15 mintues to wait in line for a while. I’m willing to walk 5 and wait!

    • I had the same reaction. If you focus on the green, this spreads them out rather than banning them.

      • ah

        What would spread them out better is allowing them in more places. This will cause clustering in a few small places with no other options.

        • Look at the map today. I count 56 food trucks out today in the area of this map. 43 of them are clustered in just four spots (Farragut, Franklin, Metro Center, Capitol). It goes up to 51 of 56 if you add in GW and State (4 each). No way this makes it more concentrated – there are way more than six locations available.

          • Josh, PORC

            It’s not the job of government to decide where the demand is for a particular business model. It’s the consumer’s job. And if you’re right, it’s only 56 today (I trust you on the count). But other days it’s well over 100. Almost half those trucks wouldn’t have any place to go.

          • Anonymous

            +1, Josh

        • jen

          you can’t ‘create’ a market jsut by designating one so. they trucks go where they go because that’s where the business is- aka the largest concentrations of people who want lunch. what’s unfair is forcing a truck into a low-traffic location when franklin or farragut can support many more. what’s unfair is forcing a business owner into this model of unpredictability. no other class of business is regulated in such a way.

          • Yes, that would be like setting standards for what kinds of businesses can be located where, regulating what the buildings have to be like, restricting their use of sidewalks…oh, wait.

            Look, I love food trucks. I love small businesses. I like my Ann Arbor homeboy Josh. And I’m all for requiring reasonable balance in regulations. But saying “our location can’t be regulated at all” doesn’t strike me as all that reasonable. It is true that the trucks cluster at a very small number of locations; if it were me, I’d be way more specific about why spreading them out is unreasonable and what alternatives might be. This just reads like a scare tactic, and if there are better points to be made they’re not made here.

    • They can also park in front of my office, which is nice, but it’s a stupid reason to approve of the new proposal. If the food trucks can’t make enough money and are forced to shut down, you won’t be getting them near your work anyway.

  • Anonymous

    I wouln’t mind if they banned all of the kebab trucks that serve their meat on cold, stale pita bread that falls apart when folded.

  • reverse commuter

    The 2 or 3 food trucks that have started coming up to the tech parks in Rockville make a killing. If they don’t want you downtown, go out to MD! Not that I’m jealous of you folks who get to work and eat at food trucks in the city or anything…

    • That was my first thought too — If DC doesn’t want them, Northern Virginia does! Come to Court House — we’re all sick of Cosi, and the one or two food trucks that do come here are hoppin’

  • NoLongerNew2CH

    Didn’t they just start taxing food trucks? So the city is earning revenue from these trucks. This regulation seems anti-consumer (check out the lines at the trucks, which speak for themselves), anti-small-business, AND will hurt D.C.’s bottom line. These trucks pose no public safety issues. So, it is a lose-lose-lose proposition. What the heck is the point, then? Well-done, Mayor’s office!!

  • Creating “favored” status licenses like this is ripe for public policy abuse and rent-seeking behavior. I guarantee that the licenses will go to someone close to Gray administration. It will just be another form of political patronage and get concentrated in the hands of a small number of political donors who are essentially given a monopoly.

    If the policy is to spread out the distribution of food trucks and bring some organization to their growth, it would be better do give each truck a provisional permit based day-of-the-week regulation. For instance, only food trucks with odd-numbered license plates can park in the red zone on Monday and Wednesday. Or any given food truck can park in the zone three weekdays per week; the other two days, they need to go elsewhere. Such a system would be much less prone to abuse and bring some degree of organization & regulation to the food truck explosion.

    • Identified

      That is a very interesting idea.

  • Josh, PORC

    Hey All, as a small business owner (PORC and Kangaroo Boxing Club), please allow me to make a couple of points regarding these regulations. Whether you like food trucks or not, these proposed regs really boil down to being a small business issue. The point of regulation is to protect public safety, not to limit competition or choose which businesses thrive and which go. What these regulations will end up doing is killing dozens and dozens of small businesses. Imagine a store owner being told they can operate one month and not the next. It’s pretty crazy.

    Yes, there are some green patches. Yes there are some spots trucks will be allowed to vend. But what these regulations do is arbitrarily decide which businesses thrive and which businesses do not. That should not be a problem that anyone has to deal with, whether you’re a restaurant OR a food truck.

    It’s truly a shame that the mayor has taken this point of view. If it weren’t for our truck, we never would’ve been able to open our restaurant (which, by the way, employs 18 district residents). And I fear that if these rules pass, there won’t be many new food trucks going brick and mortar (there are about 7 of us so far).

    So please, truly consider what these regulations do to our livelihoods.

    PORC and KBC

    • ET

      So what would you propose.

      Currently there doesn’t seem to be anything that y’all have to adhere to. As far as I am concerned that just means that y’all can do whatever the freak you want to (you can have your cake and eat it too) which is not something that other businesses, regardless of what type of business they are, can get away with. Most of these eating places have to go though byzantine systems for getting approval of ANC and past any local restrictions.

      Part of me doesn’t care all that much because there are places that food trucks won’t go because they will never make enough to make it profitable. Seems like there are too many food trucks for the 5 to 6 places that are most profitable.

      • Josh, PORC

        Actually ET,
        We’re actually heavily regulated. I have more licenses and permits for my food truck then I do for my brick and mortar. To be perfectly honest, it took me 8 months to get my food truck started because of all of the regulations. It took 2 months to get my restaurant open.

        What I would propose is smart regulation. There are issues. Some trucks don’t follow the letter of the law, others leave trash on the streets. I think that regulations should target those businesses that break the law regularly rather than the ones who operate lawfully.

        For instance, why not have DDOT charge a huge price for a four hour parking permit for downtown ala what they did with Car2Go? I know I for one would rather pay a premium than get constantly harassed with dozens of fraudulent tickets (we pay the meter religiously, but hey, sometimes you forget to drop a quarter in.)

        Why not allow food truck owners to license there businesses the way restaurants are licensed? Currently, licenses are tied to a specific person, not a business entity. That means that if I’m sick and can’t go on the truck, we don’t do business that day. If I’m sick and can’t work at the restaurant, nothing changes (except you for not getting to see my ugly mug).

        There are sensible rules that could be made and many that we have suggested to DCRA and DDOT. what we’ve heard in response is nothing, absolutely nothing.

        At the end of the day, a free market economy should decide who lives and who dies, not poor regulations.


        • Anonymous

          You don’t pay DC sales tax.

          • Josh, PORC

            We absolutely do pay dc sales tax! Please, please do your research before jumping to conclusions.

          • Anonymous

            My bad, I didn’t know that they changed the rule on that last fall.

            Appreciate you interacting with us.

        • ET

          Unfortunately it sounds like two different agencies (DDOT and DCRA) have two different goals that is a problem that doesn’t exit with bricks/mortar.

          Thanks for responding.

      • Anonymous

        So because ‘brick & mortar’ establishments have to deal with a byzantine regulatory system food trucks should also?

        Why not fix the poor regulations for restaurants rather than write and impose new, equally poor and byzantine, ones on a nascent industry?

  • Anonymous

    Maybe it’s me but I don’t feel bad for the food trucks. Some of these brick and mortar food places invested in up and coming neighborhoods. They put their money and sweat into making their businesses grow. The food trucks come in (usually from MD and VA!) and park right in front of these establishments. Next time you see food trucks, take a second and look around. So sorry but I am not sorry FTA.

    I don’t see anyone from the restaurants coming out against food trucks. Strange? Not so strange. Even though some restaurants have reported up to 40% less lunch traffic when food trucks arrived in their neighborhood, no one is going on the record today howtheirbusinesses are being effected. They know they would be slammed just like everyone else has been slammed for going against food trucks.

    I am not against food trucks. They are delicious to eat from. But I am not buying this “poor me” PR campaign.

    • up and coming neighborhoods? are you being serious? The areas the food trucks congregate have been full of offices for decades.

      • Yes, I’m curious what “up and coming” areas these food trucks have gone to. What establishments are you referring to? Law firms on K st?? Government offices around chinatown and l’enfant plaza?

      • Le Jokeur

        How about Navy Yard?

        • The map ONLY covers downtown which was build out long ago. This doesn’t look like it would affect Navy Yard at all. Personally given limited curbside resources as well as a profusion of existing food options, I don’t think this is so bad really.

      • So, Just Sayin’

        Go back and actually read his comment. He was talking about the brick-and-mortar restaurants, not food trucks, taking risks by siting themselves in up-and-coming areas.

    • Comrade

      What up and coming neighborhoods are you talking about? K street? State Department? Look at the this map and see where all the food trucks are located. Do you see any in up and coming neighborhoods?

    • Romulo

      I have zero interest in protecting bland chains, which is all this regulation does. Its my bias, but I’d rather have more food competition. Also, a lot of the food that is served is really different from the brick and mortar. A lot of people aren’t interested in eating East African food for lunch. Potbelly’s et. al will be safe by how many people just want a roast beef sandwich with mustard. I know sometimes I default to something bland, although I usually go to a deli in my building. Also, if these lunch places were a good value and/or actually good, we wouldn’t all be flocking to Food Trucks. Stop sucking and we’ll want to eat there.

      • This is more than just about protecting bad chains.

        It’s all about the owners of the real estate in DC, who have every reason to see food trucks regulated out-of-business. Food trucks take away business from brick-and-mortars, which then leads to lower rents for commercial street-level spaces. And those are the most expensive rents per square foot in the city.

        There’s a lot of money at stake here.

    • Anonymous

      RAMW, Golden Triangle BID, and others have years aggressively lobbied for these and even more restrictive regulations. They’ve long been ‘selling’ their own ‘poor me’ story.

  • jch

    These new regulations are naive. For instance, the lottery spots are ludicrous. Let the food trucks park where they know they will make money and not be relegated to one spot. Part of the reason some are so successful is because they change up their locations so consumers never tire of the same choices. I work over by Franklin park and tell you that without the food trucks it would be the same 5 disgusting choices of where to eat everyday.

  • Food Truck Association: It would be most helpful if you could weigh in with (1) the most influential POCs to whom we can voice our opinion on these regulations (2) a viable alternative we could voice that is not just “we oppose these regulations.”

    • Josh, PORC

      Unfortunately, the way the Mayor has pushed these to the council, there is no way for us to amend or change anything in the bill (highly rare, by the way). As for points on the regs, the three major ones can be found here:

      The key people in this fight are the members of the BCRA committee of the DC Council (they will have the chance to deal with the bill first): Orange, Cheh, Graham, Grosso and Alexander.

      • Thanks for the link – unfortunately, the statement makes the association sound like it’s simply upset that they will no longer be able to park wherever they want to – meanwhile your comments on this thread show that there are other issues affecting food trucks that need to be addressed. Perhaps a statement of what the association is for, rather than what it is against, would help your cause.

        • Josh, PORC

          That’s an excellent point. I will bring that up with other members. Thanks for your thoughts.

          • Josh, another angle to play up is the fact that food trucks expand the range of healthy options available to workers in the downtown area. The big chains offer up large portions of the same crap – calorie & preservative-laden burgers, pizza, sandwiches, fried food, etc.

            In my experience, food trucks tend to offer reasonable portions of healthier food. Furthermore, getting out of the office and walking a few blocks to the food truck is great exercise!

            Obesity is a major public policy issue and government officials really want to look like they are tackling this issue. I think you guys need to re-frame the issues a bit.

            Good luck!

          • Anonymous

            zero_sum, today, instead of getting lunch from one of the 10 or so trucks outisde my building, I went to the sandwich shop. I had a sandiwch with fresh sliced turkey, a couple of slices of cheese and mustard. Definitely a healthy lunch from a place that’s not a truck! And I could ahve gotten a fried chicken sandiwch from the Chik Fil-A truck!

          • @ Anonymous:

            I’m so glad to hear that your single meal comprises a statistically significant sample of all lunches consumed in the downtown area.

            The food trucks should just close up now! The brick & mortars have already declared victory!

        • Put better than I did it.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe this will lead to gorilla food trucks.

    • Anonymous

      I do not recommend eating gorillas. Or do you mean food trucks that serve bamboo shoots, bugs, etc.?

      • Think of the banana smoothies though!

        • Anonymous

          I think he means food trucks run by commando guerrillas. WOLVERINES!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I disagree with the Food Truck Association’s talking points on the proposed regulations.

    It honestly looks to me like a fairly balanced plan. The city has an interest in avoiding over concentrations of food trucks and in maintaining multiple uses of public space, and the food trucks have an interest in maintaining access to downtown vending locations.

  • It doesn’t seem that bad. Looks like room for a few dozen downtown easily. Fairness would really all depend on how its implemented and whether or not everyone has a reasonable chance to serve prime locations some of the time.

    • jen

      we already have a system like that which works perfectly well. it’s called first come, first served. whoever gets to a location first gets a spot. there’s nothing unfair about that model.

  • The benefit to having lots of trucks around a park (Farragut Square for instance) is that you can see all you options in one space, and then enjoy your meal right there.

    If they’re scattered along dozens of blocks downtown, if you want a food truck, you’ll either have to take the one randomly parked near your building or follow where the truck you want is and hunt it down.

  • “Eyes roll”,

    I like the naivety of it all “Regulation exists for the public safety and nothing else”.

    Really? You are clearly wrong. Full Stop.

    And Josh, let’s be honest here, it took you 8 months to get your food truck licensed because you had no idea what you are doing. A buddy of mine just got his first food truck permitted in 2.5 weeks in January, and that was with MLK holiday thrown in which makes the business days on either side of the holiday wasted. It didn’t take you 8 months, and if it did you should be embarrassed to admit that in a public forum.

    Yes, food trucks “now” have to pay sales tax, but let’s not pretend like food trucks didn’t viciously fight it for two and a half years and screamed bloody murder the entire way “It’s unfair”, It will drive me out of business”. It was embarrassing how many food truck owners, especially the non-District based ones (which at last count 75% of you were) would go on record to the Post about how they needed special treatment by the District taxpayer to “survive”. Again, clearly wrong.

    You now own a brick and mortar, good for you. And you will claim otherwise here but we both know if ten food trucks parked on 11th street in front of your restaurant every day during your peak business hours, then drove away leaving the streets and sidewalks a mess for you to clean up on a daily basis, you would be less than thrilled.

    Which brings me to my last point. On top of paying the same sales tax that every other brick and mortar has to pay, food trucks should have to contribute to the BIDs in which you operate. Since you operate all over, food trucks should have to contribute to a central BID fund that is then equally distributed to the Districts BIDs. Food trucks mass at lunch time, the wrappers, plates etc from them pack every trash can in sight and overflow on to the sidewalks and streets…trash cans and streets the brick and mortars you are taking business from, pay to maintain.

    Signed, someone who doesn’t own a brick and mortar or food truck.

    • Or it could be that your friend got through it in 2.5 weeks because people like Josh have worked with the city, and the city has streamlined the process as a result…

      Or you could just slam him and tell him he has no idea what he is doing as a successful owner of two businesses.

      Your call.

    • jen

      yeah, and if it’s raining then they all go to the restaurant and the food truck sells nothing. the restaurant can also open earlier, stay open later, their customers can sit, and they can handle more people at once. there are positives and negatives to both business models. let’s not pretend that the restaurants are suffering an undue burden. let’s also not pretend that this is about small business restaurants when it’s really about corporate chains like cosi that serve crap and don’t like it when people go to a truck instead of paying $10 for their disgusting salads .

      you know why i go to the trucks? good food. you know what would attract me back to a restaurant? good food.

      • Anonymous


        Evidenced by the fact that most ‘modern’ food trucks have survived DC summer(s) of 60+ days of 90+ temps. without the benefit of AC for customers nor operators.

    • Josh, PORC

      Oh Joker, how I’ve missed you. I congratulate your friend on starting his truck so quickly and wish him luck if these regs pass. Even on my “dummy” timeline, it still took 4 times longer to get the food truck up and running than the restaurant. I think the difference demonstrates a inequity in regulation already. But hey, I’m a dummy, what do I know?

      But back to slamming me. You’re right Joker, I am a huge dummy. Time after time I try to have a reasonable conversation with the other people on this site just to have someone like you spew misinformation and silly arguments back at me. I don’t mind arguing my points against a well though out counter argument. In fact, I enjoy it. But unfortunately, individuals like you attempt to turn conversations like this into a troll war.

      If you’re ever willing to have a meaningful discussion, feel free to email me at [email protected] and I’ll by you a beer at my restaurant. I’m more than happy to argue with you in person, but I’m done talking to a joker with his online anonymity.

      A food truck owner, restaurateur, plain old guy tired of talking with trolls

      • Comrade

        +1. Well said, tovarisch

    • Anonymous

      The BID is a failed concept. They are grossly inefficient, and are a band aid for services that the CITY SHOULD BE PROVIDING with the tax revenue that it receives from business activities.

      I have looked at the DC BID Profile report (see it for yourself here: http://www.dcbidcouncil.org/storage/Profiles%202012%20April%2019%20final%20condensed.pdf)–in many cases businesses have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to the BIDs.

      There are cheaper ways to clean up trash than a bloated BID….

  • jen

    i smell a lot of fake commenting by regulation allies…

    • And by pearl-clutching food truck allies as well.

      • ET

        Ding, ding, ding.

    • I don’t necessarily know if that is the case, it’s just that everyone in DC (and this blogs readers, in particular) is an expert on everything.

      One major thing that the food trucks have working against them is how many times they have had to fight through onerous legislation proposed at all levels of DC Government. I think the public sentiment is still in support, but how many time are people willing to write their council member, the mayors office, etc, to stick up for them?

      I think most people enjoy and are in favor of food trucks, but since they are constantly in the spotlight battling with the city they have unnecessarily gotten a bad reputation as “entitled” and “not willing to do what brick and mortar stores” have to.

      Too be honest, I don’t think they should. It’s an entirely different business model with lower overhead and sunk costs – that’s why they have sprung up so quickly. I think there is a fair and equitable way to make operators happy, give the city a cut, and all parties win – I just don’t think this proposal is it.

  • Colhi

    I would be interested in actually seeing the reports that show:
    A: How many jobs for DC residents are actually created by food trucks.
    B. How much food trucks pay in taxes IN DC.

    The numbers always seem SUPER inflated. And last time this issue came up, it was clear that about 70% of the owners were from MD and VA and were not paying taxes in DC. (Until they were forced to by new regulations, which they fought tooth and nail.)

    Also, for those saying it’s not the job of the government to tell businesses where to go, I would respond, if a business relies on public property and services (sidewalks, streets, garbage collection) that my tax dollars pay for then it’s a different situation.

    • Brick and mortar shops also generate trash. They also rely on the same streets to get customers to their doors. Most are tapped in to DC WASA.

      I fail to see your logic here.

      • Marcus Aurelius

        If the city can tell a restaurant owner that he or she can’t have outdoor seating in front of his or her restaurant because of the impact it would have on the surrounding area, the city can tell a food truck that it can’t park in a particular spot because of the impact it will have on the surrounding area.
        I don’t know whether these proposed regs are good or bad. But I know that the city has a responsibility to consider the concerns of everyone who will be affected by the actions of these trucks, not just the owners and patrons.

      • Colhi

        Brick and mortar stores pay property taxes. Private businesses pay for trash removal services. WASA is a paid service. Clearly, every business uses streets to get goods to their business, but you can’t possibly think that parking on a street for 6 hours isn’t a little bit different.

        I like food trucks, I think they are great. But their business model relies on using public space for a private benefit. Therefore, they should expect that there will be more regulation on what they do. These aren’t nonprofits, they aren’t freedom fighters. They are just businesses trying to maximize profit by using as many free resources as a possible.

      • They contribute to the Golden Triangle BID as well.

    • Anonymous

      HAAA … ha!

      That’s like asking how many DC jobs were created during the construction of Nationals Stadium where as part of the deal to get public funding it was mandated that x-percent hires be DC residents.

      But okay, let’s see the food truck numbers AND those for the DC restaurant scene. I’m holding my breath for this to ever happen.

    • Anonymous

      Who the hell would pay taxes if they weren’t required to? Are you serious?

  • Anon X

    There needs to be some regulation of Food Trucks. The trash, the congestion, the ability to descend on an area and leverage their use of cheap public resources to gain a competitive advantage on B&Ms, and other reasons are all the justification necessary to bring some regulatory attention to them.

    I love food trucks and I want to continue to use them.

    I also think that in many ways, their streamlining and overhead reduction are good for business and for consumers. However, they also use public resources to gain an edge, which is not fair.

    The city shouldnt be so transparent in their catering to the Restaurant Association, though. It is clear their intention is to so heavily regulate the food trucks that their numbers are reduced.

    The City should pursue regulations that force trucks to pay more, but get to stay longer, and in more areas than the green ones on the map.

    I’m completely opposed to this plan, but I find the food truck association’s apparently unwillingness to be regulated with regards to their occupation of public space a huge problem.

  • fz

    I’m a food truck fan. What can I do to help? Anyone I should write to? Any proposals I can sign?

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Interesting that the press release refers to food trucks unable to be where “residents” want them most. The only part of DC this group seems to care about is downtown (that’s all I see on the map). I will wager that these trucks are serving more non-DC residents than DC residents when they are downtown. There’s nothing wrong with that except whe there is an attempt to make this about some major loss for residents of DC.
    I would also like to see the data that supports the claim that hundres of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue will be lost.
    I have nothing against food trucks. As a downtown worker, I enjoy the variety they bring. But the City has a right and responsibility to consider the downsides of the cons as well as the pros andto strike a balance.

  • Anonymous

    To tie this into another story posted today (the Rock Creek deer hunt), I decided that now is not a good time to open my new Harry Truman themed venison truck, “The Buck Stops Here.”

  • So, Just Sayin’

    I think it’s time for PoP to stop broadcasting industry talking points like this. The last thing industry trade associations need is another free forum to air their views without the alternative positions lined up alongside them.

    This is very simple — food trucks are trucks. The city has an interest in maintaining traffic along the streets and sidewalks. That interest, by the way, is the public’s interest.

    You don’t get to operate these commercial vehicles and park them on the street for commercial purposes without having to face a little regulation. Which, by the way, starts to put you food truck business operators in a position more similar to your brick-and-mortar brethren, who can’t locate restaurants anywhere they want but must, instead, comply with zoning regulations.

    I really hate this “sky is falling” crap from business interests.

    • What are you talking about? Food trucks park in parking spaces that are otherwise occupied by cars parked by individuals with business in the surrounding area. They don’t occupy traffic lanes. What a strange post.

  • Anonymous

    For you to be able to operate in the popular (i.e. area giving you the best chance to make a profit – albeit still a slim one, say 20% on the high end) you have to enter a lottery.


    To operate your business you have to enter a LOTTERY!


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