By Dominic Massa | Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – After nearly two hours of often-dizzying debate, the New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 to allow an expansion of food trucks throughout the city, with discussion of customer access to restrooms dominating much of the debate.
District D council member Cynthia Hedge-Morrell voted against the ordinance.
At the start of the meeting, Council President Stacy Head, sponsor of the ordinance, seemed visibly irritated at amendments she said she received as late as 10 p.m. Wednesday night, several weeks after the food truck issue first came before the council.
Much of the debate Thursday centered on those amendments, with council members themselves seemingly confused by amendments to the amendments, which brought laughter from some in the audience.
A key portion of debate focused on customer access to restrooms, with council members finally settling on amendments that would require vendors seek written permission from the nearest business with a restroom available for their customers. But the council passed an exemption for vendors who can demonstrate that there is no commercial or public bathroom available within 300 feet. An attempt by Council Vice President Jackie Clarkson to require vendors secure a key to the restrooms failed.
Head and supporters of the food truck expansion showed their displeasure at what the Council President at one point called the “onerous” restroom requirements.
“Many of the cities that were listed (in public comments) as having bathroom requirements were less onerous and have time limit requirements in place,” Head said, asking why there was a need for bathroom access for vendors in place as little as two hours.
“I added a bathroom requirement…even though I think it’s silly,” Head said.
Council members agreed to cap the number of new food truck permits at 75, and to prohibit food trucks in front of residential structures. The council also passed an amendment to the ordinance which will prohibit food trucks within 200 feet of a restaurant during the restaurant’s open hours. The current law called for that limit to be 600 feet.
Another amendment also called for vendors to be required to post their permits within public view.