From the DMV Food Truck Association:
“On April 1st, DC’s Office of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) made a simple yet devastating policy change that only serves to impede small business growth and put food truck owners out of business; and we’re the ones “fooled” if we stand by and do nothing. The DMV Food Truck Association (DMVFTA) believes this change is misguided and unfair to all food trucks. Since this change, DMVFTA has been nothing but vocal about their feelings and support for their members, and DCRA has been nothing but silent to respond.
DCRA manages the DC food truck lottery system which provides vending spaces along the 10 most popular food truck vending streets in the city. DCRA has now decided, unilaterally of course, that only one truck per business can enter the lottery.
This one simple change is particularly catastrophic for businesses with two or more food trucks which maintain staff on all of them throughout the year.
Multiple truck owners, including Kirk Francis of Captain Cookie, run their mobile businesses at a loss through the quieter winter months so that they can be fully staffed for the busy season, “which is now upon us,” Francis says. “The timing of the new DCRA policy is particularly bad. Had I known this was going to happen starting May, I may not have run my business–and lost money–knowing I wouldn’t be able to recover it all starting in springtime.”
Francis owns three food trucks, as well as two brick-and-mortar shops and the commercial kitchen space, Tastemakers. “This whole process is unfair to those who have been following the laws and growing businesses in DC for years,” he says. “I have entered my three trucks in the lottery each month for several years, passed all required inspections, completed all the required paperwork, hire only metro area residents, and yet never got any word of this change until we went on April 1 to register for the May lottery. When I asked why they made the change, DCRA gave me no explanation. To have this done without consent and completely without prior notification and against all normal rules, feels like a betrayal and surprise.”
This change is being applied without allowing operators or the public time to provide feedback, and there was no prior information or communication provided about this change until food trucks attempted to register for May spaces on the 1st.
Managing Director of the DMV Food Truck Association, Andie Himmelrich says that “When the Association learned of this new policy that would take place so suddenly, and affect all of our members without notice, we immediately objected to it. For months now the DMVFTA and DCRA have been working together on many food truck-related issues including lottery locations. DMVFTA was not informed in these months of conversation until the end of March about this policy change effective April 1, leaving us no time to tell our members and warn other food truck operators.”
Not only is growth among many food truck businesses now curtailed, but this new policy will also leave businesses with no recourse to reverse the months of losses that they thought they had planned for. Chairman of the DMVFTA, Sam Whitfield says, “In a city that says it supports local businesses, it’s discouraging to see this kind of policy go into place, without the City considering the concerns of those most affected by it.”
DC Chef, and food truck owner Jose Andres tweets out “Is not the American way or fair to restrict Food truck companies with more than one, on the newly imposed lottery!” He too demands for change now!
DCRA claims that the change was made to correct certain lottery abuses and to make more spaces available. However, DCRA has yet to provide the Association with factual data that relates to the scope of the problem. The Association contends that the data doesn’t exist and DCRA is making policy changes based on anecdotal evidence and it’s inability to enforce the rules we already have to address those abuses. “This is just another example of irresponsible governing,” says Chairman Whitfield.
The DMVFTA sees other solutions as more fair, transparent and manageable. A new MRV lottery location hasn’t been added since 2015, while plenty of new food trucks enter the market every year. More lottery locations where demand has been established equal more opportunities for all food trucks.
Additionally, the Association believes that DCRA wouldn’t have to change policies of this magnitude that prohibit the growth of small businesses, if it properly enforced the rules already on the books.
More MRVs and proper enforcement seem like easy no brainer solutions, however they bring up other, more political and financial, issues than this article has time to speak to.”