Friday, January 20, 2012

Will somebody think about the food trucks?

Photo by Mr T in DC
The Washington Post is reporting that the DC city council is considering new regulations on food trucks. These regulations would remove the rule that a food truck must move if there is not a line and would allow neighborhoods to create their own regulations. I haven't seen the legislation or commentary from a respectable local news source; I'll update when I do.

Update: DCist has the text of the proposed rulemaking. Sorry if this is somewhat stream of consciousness, I'm typing as I read the regulation. It looks like they are planning on allocating "roadway vending locations" by lottery, with no truck allowed to have permits for more than two spots at a time. Given that the sites are distributed by day of the week, it's unclear whether this means two different locations on a single day, or two different licenses. If it's the second, it could be problematic, since I take it food trucks want to be out all five days of the week. It looks like the second, since a later provision says that a vendor may not operate at more than one location per day, which would tend to be redundant under the first reading. On a second reading, it appears that the regulation limits the food truck to two locations, but not two days. So, for example, it could have a permit for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at L'Enfant, and Tuesday and Thursday at Farragut Square. It still seems unnecessarily limiting.

There are also provisions for design standards. I don't know much about how food trucks are designed, but it seems like some of them, such as the requirement for two different sinks, and one of them a three compartment sink, could be onerous. Vending hours also seem restrictive. On weekends, they're only allowed to be out until one am, and I'm sure the late night crowd wouldn't mind grabbing a bite from a truck on the way home from the bar.

It explicitly removes the requirement that there be a line for the truck to stay there, though somewhat mysteriously, it does so only for "non-dessert prepared foods." Per the Washington Post, the reasoning seems to be that if you're not an ice cream truck, you're going to need some time to set up. It does require the food truck to obey the already existing parking restrictions, so if it's a two-hour spot, the truck can only stay for two hours.

Interestingly, it also sets up what it calls "Vending Development Zones," which appear to allow for greater flexibility with respect to these regulations. This includes the ability of neighborhoods to keep out food trucks. Given the restrictions that are already present in the regulation about food trucks in residential areas, I'm not sure I really want a neighborhood to be able to engage in this sort of NIMBYism, but maybe that's just me.

If it sounds like I'm critical, it's because I am. I'm pretty sure there's too much regulations of business, especially food business in general, and I just don't think we need this level. If brick and mortar restaurants can't compete, they should make better food, or sell it more cheaply. I hope that DC Council is trying to pass legislation to improve the well-being of their constituents, not the well being of entrenched business interests. Also, I hope this doesn't ruin Farragut Fridays -- I like Farragut Fridays! Farragut Square is never as well-used as it is on a nice Friday with all of the food trucks there, and it'd be a shame to see that disappear.

That being said, these regulations could be far worse. They could just ban food trucks, or otherwise make it impossible for them to function, rather than simply more difficult than it needs to be.

1 comment:

  1. While there are some bits relevant to food trucks earlier in the proposed regulation, the most interesting bits are at pp. 37ff, discussing roadway vending locations, pp. 41ff discussing the assignment of roadway vending licenses, including time restrictions, pp. 44ff, discussing vehicle design standards, pp. 53, discussing littering and customer lines, pp 54ff, discussing specifically roadway vending, including parking, pp. 56ff, discussing the establishment of Vending Development Zones.