Jacksonville, FL — The draft is all but done, meaning new regulations on Jacksonville’s food trucks will appear in front of the City Council later this month.
For more than two months a special committee led by Councilman Reggie Brown has worked on figuring out a compromise which would give the city a greater say in when and where food trucks operate without squashing the business entirely. It was a rocky start, with food trucks convinced the initial draft of this legislation would have put them out of business, but there have been many changes since that most agree foster the right business market.
“I think the future of food trucks in Jacksonville is great,” says Brown.
Among some of the restrictions under this proposal are hours of operation. Citywide, food trucks can operate 6 AM-3 AM, but in Downtown they would be allowed unlimited hours. Conversely, there are few requirements on the distance a truck can park from a business citywide, while in Downtown they would be restricted from 50 feet near a “brick and mortar” restaurant.
The distance, specifically in Downtown, is still a sticking point that’s got business concerned about any increase in competition for the already slow foot traffic in the area. The “Brick and Mortars” who showed up to the meeting wanted a distance much greater, like 300 feet. The Downtown Investment Authority came up with the 50 feet proposal, noting that other restrictions like that trucks can’t park on sidewalks and must be a certain distance from corners, should create a fair and competitive environment.
“Everybody should be able to find someplace downtown to work,” Brown says.
For the food trucks, it’s important to establish some idea of where they can work in Downtown, but that doesn’t mean they will all be flocking to work there.
“It’s not going to be a mass entrance of food trucks to Downtown. We know the numbers. We mostly have lucrative lunches at corporate office complexes, so you’re not going to see 30 trucks invading in to streets,” says Dale Stoudt with Super Food Truck.
In fact the bigger win, for Stoudt, was access to those complexes- which had become a question under the initial draft.
“Without being able to go there, we wouldn’t have been able to have weekly spots,” he says.
He says there was also a big concern over an initial ban on operating in residential neighborhoods. While they understood the city’s aversion to having a truck set up camp in a residential street, the wording could have prevented them from catering private parties in residential areas. That has since been changed to allow such catering, again, with proper written permission.
Food trucks will also be granted “non-specific” permits, meaning they are not limited to operating in one location under the permit.
While Brown’s initial proposal was met with immediate concern, he says it may have in fact been the best way to start this process because people we concerned, so they came out to be a part of the process. He believes that if he had introduced the legislation formally without working on the draft first, the results would have been much worse. He also came to the realization early on that parks and Downtown needed to be treated differently than the rest of the City and believes the success of this draft will be in those differences.
“In the grand scheme of things, I think everyone is going to be happy with how things turn out,” Stoudt says.
Brown and some of the other city representative still have to finalize some small zoning issues, but he intends to formally file the bill by April 22nd. It must then make a trek through the entire City Council before becoming law.