Miami: Commission Passes Food Truck Ordinance, What Happens Now?

Dim Ssäm à GoGo and Sakaya Kitchen's Richard Hales spoke on behalf of food trucks at today's commission meeting.

By Laine Doss |

Dim Ssäm à GoGo and Sakaya Kitchen's Richard Hales spoke on behalf of food trucks at today's commission meeting.

Earlier today, the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners passed a new food truck ordinance by a vote of 7-1. It will affect about half the truck gatherings, including those in Kendall, Cutler Bay, and other parts of the county. Roundups in North Miami and Miami — including Wynwood — will be unaffected because they are governed by those cities’ laws.

The most important restriction: 80 percent of residents within 1,000 feet of a roundup must sign off on an event before it can be held.

County zoning and planning director Marc LaFerrier explained that four or more trucks make a roundup, permitting will take five to seven days, and permits will cost $750 per recurring event — not per week. In other words, weekly events such as Truckers Out West will pay only once annually as long as no site plan revisions are made.

Once agenda item 5(D) went to the floor, it took 54 minutes of discussion before a vote was taken. Food truck owners Jack Garabedian, Richard Hales, Oren Bass, and David Garcia spoke, as did Andrew Guild from Worth Town Propane, who said the food trucks provide him with additional business. Burger Beast’s Sef Gonzalez noted that food truck roundups are family affairs.

Several other food truck owners were present at the meeting, including Jim Heins (Latin Burger), Andrew Kaplan (CheeseMe), Brian Mullins (Ms. Cheezious), Jean Beltran (the Frita Man), Giovanni Fernandez (El Rey de la Paella), and Ramon and Maria Delgado (Grill Master Café).

The commissioners were mainly in favor of the trucks, but had some questions and concerns. Commissioner Rebeca Sosa noted that police were called to a recent roundup because of some heated arguments about traffic. She asked LaFerrier if this would create larger problems and expressed concern over who would verify the signatures of the residents and who would pay for additional police presence.

Other commissioners were on board right away. Commissioner Lynda Bell said this just made good business sense, and Commissioner Barbara Jordan said she would give a favorable vote in exchange for lunch.

Commissioner Sally Heyman recused herself from comment and voting because
she owns the coffee truck Coffee Brake and did not want to create a conflict of interest.

The amendment passed 7-1, with Commissioner Javier Souto voting “no” because his proposed amendment to require overnight off-street parking for trucks (which had nothing to do with the proposal) was voted down. Souto arrived late to the meeting and appeared to have little understanding of the food trucks.

After the vote, it was time for the food truck operators to digest exactly what this means to their businesses.

Hales, owner of Dim Ssäm a GoGo and Sakaya Kitchen, said, “What are we going to do right now? In the long run, I think this will be good for the truck owners, but the short term is a bit confusing. We can’t just stop working while we’re waiting for the permitting process to begin.” Asked how the amendment might change his business, chef Jeremiah Bullfrog of gastroPod simply said, “Ask us in three months.”

Though this ordinance legitimizes the Miami food truck industry, the wording leaves some big questions. Mainly: How long will it take to pull a permit? Will it be possible to obtain the required signatures from residents 1,000 feet from a roundup? Will local cities and neighboring counties adopt similar rules? Food truck roundups will need to re-evolve, with more advance planning and a lot more paperwork.