City of Miami Cracks Down on Food Trucks

By Laine Doss |

Friday was not a great day for food truckers in Miami. In the afternoon, the food truck roundup at Magic City Casino proved to be underwhelming, business-wise. When asked about how sales were at the lunchtime food court, the answer from truck owners was a resounding “eh”.

Then came a blog posted by The Miami Herald at 6:30 p.m. In it was a statement made by Barnaby L. Min, Zoning Administrator for The City of Miami.  Min said “If food truck operators want to continue with their current practice of weekly gathering at specific locations in the City of Miami, they will have to obtain a permit for each event, and if they want to extend how many times a permit can be used, they’ll have to get a waiver from the City Commission.

A one-time use permit costs $153.50. The kicker is that each permit can only be extended two times for private property and ten times for public property in a year. This means that weekly events, like the one held at American Legion Post #29 are in jeopardy.

Another option available to food truck owners is to find a vacant lot in the city and obtain a “Temporary Use of Vacant Land Permit”. This, however, can only be used on true vacant land – meaning no parking lot, no condemmed building, no cows. Just a piece of land that is totally void of any structure or improvements. If the truckers could find such land, they could be issued a permit to operate for six months.

The third option is for food trucks to obtain a peddler’s license, much like ice cream trucks. The catch there is that the trucks must remain moving and only stop when a transction is taking place. That’s great for Mister Softee, but when grills, griddles and fry vats are in play there’s an element of danger that simply did not exist before, not to mention a time factor. It may take 30 seconds to complete a transaction for a vanilla cone with sprinkles, but to make a burger and fries would take significantly longer and lead to traffic jams or worse.

The Miami New Times contacted Jim Heins, owner of Latin Burger and Jack Garabedian, owner of Jefe’s Original Taco for comment. Heins said he would have to read the statement to understand and comment on it, but added “My question is how long will it take to get a permit? Because once we get a location, we do these (roundups) pretty quick”.

Jack Garabedian said “Hopefully there will be a way to get around some of the more stringent rules. It’s actually a step in the right direction. At least we know what the parameters are”.

Garabedian did add an interesting thought, “Hurricane season is coming. The food trucks, with their generators, could step up and help out if a disaster occurs in the community. The City should embrace us now, before something happens”.