Washington, DC: Food Truck Fight Generates 7-Hour Debate

By Contributor  |  NBC Washington


The fight over food trucks translated into a lengthy public meeting at the D.C. Council Friday, where red T-shirts bearing the message “Save D.C. food trucks” identified those who say their livelihoods are at stake if the Council decides to pass proposed regulations.

Restaurant owners also got in their arguments during the seven-hour meeting, saying it’s not fair for food trucks to operate with little or no regulations.

If passed, the regulations would require food truck owners to particpate in a monthly lottery to receive designated parking spots.

A map by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs shows the 20 proposed truck zones, with a total of roughly 180 spots.

About 120 food trucks currently operate each weekday. Many of them move around frequently during the day, broadcasting their locations via Twitter.

Some truck owners say getting locked into a single spot for an entire day would hurt business.

“It requires business to rely on a game of chance,” said one critic Friday. “If you don’t win, you’re out of the most popular areas.”

“We have about four or five spots a day,” said D.C. resident Sam Whitfield, who co-owns Curbside Cupcakes with his wife, Kristi. “We come to one spot for half an hour, an hour max; [we] serve our customers [and] we’re onto the next.”

Owners of brick-and-mortar restaurants also weighed in at Friday’s hearing. They say food trucks park in their customers’ parking spots, and long lines can obstruct their front doors.

“What we seek, and what we believe the current proposed regulations provide is a reasonable framework for managing the locations for [food] trucks so that their operations are not unfairly disruptive to other users of public space,” said one.

The D.C. Council now has until June 22 to pass or reject the regulations, or take no action at all.

Amendments would not come easily, or quickly. The Washington Post reports: “Emergency action to amend the rules would require the approval of nine of the 13 council members, who will then have ‘their own ideas on the regs,’ [D.C. Councilmember Vincent] Orange said.