Public is hungry for better vending regulations for food trucks

April 10, 2013

Public comments were due Monday for the proposed vending regulations that will decide how mobile and stationary food vendors do their jobs in the District. From a quick examination of the comments, the vast majority of the public does not sound happy with the rules that could limit food trucks in the Central Business District.


The public has spoken, and they want their food trucks with fewer regulations.

Take a look for yourself:

* From Erek Dyskant: "I strongly oppose the mobile vending zones proposal that subjects trucks to a lottery and caps the total number of trucks in each popular area. Under a lottery, some of the best trucks would be forced to shut down, as there’s not a business model in not knowing each month whether you’ll be allowed to operate."

* From Thea Cohen: "Of course, it is unfortunate that established restaurants are losing business. But nothing "unfair" is happening here. The fact is, the brick-and-mortar restaurants in this area cannot compete in quality, which is why people are turning to food trucks."

* From Daman Toth, vice president of operations for AlliedBarton Security Services: "I work in the public safety/private security field. In such, I have experience during evacuation drills dense crowds — waiting in line for the food trucks — blocking the sidewalks. This is a public safety concern. The crowds created by the lines funneling from the food trucks put the public at risk in emergency situations (and in general)."

* From Jason Kestecher: "The lottery parking system makes absolutely no sense. I live near Union Station and there is never a problem when the trucks congregate in that area. I never see any complaints from businesses nearby."

* From Jerimiah J. Sanders: "There are plenty of problems in the District and food trucks are not one of them."

* From Read Porter: "We all want Washington to be a world class city, and part of that is avoiding the accretion of unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles to economic development and opportunity."

* From Alexandra Michel: "The proposed regulations are a blatant attack on independent small business in favor of inferior offerings. Everyone in D.C. has the right to decide for themselves what they want for lunch."

* From Sandra Panetta, owner of Sweetbites truck: "My food truck provides me the opportunity to earn a living working for myself and provide for my two children. However, narrow special interests are calling for you and the D.C. government to decide where I can and cannot park to do business. Regardless of their stated reasons, please recognize they seek to manipulate city policy to favor one business over another, limit competition and consumer choice and ultimately drive out my and every other food truck in the District."

* From Jim Tise: "Limiting the number of trucks in a zone could very easily result in me losing my favorite trucks, and my favorite trucks losing their best customers, creating a zero-sum result. Trucks lose, customers lose and D.C. government loses (through reduced taxes on meals)."

* From Nasir Khan: "Supporting the new proposal for the food truck regulations. Hope it will improve the public parking spaces."

* From Meredith Carlton: "I found Mayor Gray’s comments about crowd funding pretty hilarious. The man praises a local restaurateur for using the crowd funding service Kickstarter to open a business in Union Market while not mentioning anything about the food trucks. Is he unaware that there are 3 D.C. food trucks (D.C. Empanadas, Curbside Cupcake and TaKorean) that also opened a “brick and mortar” shop in that same market? Does he not see how food trucks grow into full fledged restaurants?"

* From Angelina Lee Cho: "Listen to us. We are the consumers. We are asking you to not let these regulations pass."

* From the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington: "Rather than address the issues that exist on those few high demand city blocks where everyone recognizes that greater management is required, the proposed regulations impose broad based restrictions that attempt to solve problems that don’t exist and, worse, create conditions that will exacerbate vending outside of Mobile Roadway Vending (MRV) locations and run vendors out of business due to a lack of viable vending locations."

* From the Apartment and Office Building Association: "The DDOT Director should conduct periodic reviews of existing vending locations, including, for example, upon the expiration of a vending site permit and prior to granting an extension of such permit."

* From Alex DeMots: "Please stop with the food truck regs. They are a 'solution' in search of a problem. The food trucks offer great lunch options. These are the hustling small businesses that should be encouraged, not arbitrarily smacked. These regs are a naked attempt by politically powerful restaurant owners and landlords to stamp out competition."

* From Cristen and Kevin Sizemore, owners of That Cheesecake Truck: "The new language that defines the lottery system for MRV zones is extremely concerning. The fact that a percentage of trucks can theoretically be unable to vend for an entire month is unimaginable. Can you imagine any other business being forced to close its business in high traffic areas for a month?"

* From Rob Crawford: "What would I do if the food trucks weren’t an eating option downtown? I’d bring lunch or I’d work from home. That means I’m not contributing to Metro/cab revenue, and I’m not shopping in stores downtown. You know who else uses food trucks? Young people who can’t afford to eat at DC Coast every day."

* From Leland Smith: "I work full time in downtown D.C. near where the food trucks often congregate, but I live in Virginia. Should these regulations pass and food truck owners go out of business as a result, I will cease to make any purchases in D.C. until entrepenuer [sic] friendly rules are reinstated."

* From Josh Saltzman, co-owner of the PORC truck: "This rule could be used to conceivably create a protected zone of all of the Central Business District, while making Georgetown and other areas outside the CBD completely off limits" for trucks.

* From Daniel E. Meyerson, Esq.: "The city should not be in the business of picking winners and losers among food providers."

* From Sam and Kristi Whitfield, owners of Curbside Cupcakes: "These regulations give the illusion of progress while actually eliminating our ability to compete for customers where folks have come to enjoy and expect food truck options."

* From Jessica Hill: "On the off-chance that any of them pay attention to public comments, you might remind some of D.C.’s elected officials that many of us that like to frequent food trucks in D.C. are also D.C. voters. Rather angry ones. And since eating lunch is something I do everyday, I have no doubt I’ll remember that for many election cycles to come."

* From Ashleigh Whelan: "While I understand the concerns of the brick-and-mortar business community at large, as a consumer, I am very disappointed at the range of creative and ethnic foods available in D.C. as a whole and specifically in the downtown area. The consumer-driven popularity of food trucks has resulted in a wide range of creative concepts and represents the best in a competitive, capitalist economy."

* From Natalie Cook: "With the advent of food trucks in my area daily, I eat out significantly more often than before, contributing to employment in the District, paying sales tax to the District and boosting the economic bottom line as many trucks are owned by brick-and-mortar restaurants in the District."

* From Edward Harris: "The mayors [sic] proposed regs are an excellent idea. It would spread those food trucks out and provide adequate service to employees. It would also free up some parking spaces around Farragaut [sic] Square. Fifteen trucks around the park is insane."

* From Kristina Kern, owner of Stella*s PopKern: "The proposed regulations will seriously affect all of us and quite frankly put most, if not all of us, out of business."

* From George Bouza: "It’s disappointing that the mayor cares more about pleasing the restaurant lobby than encouraging businesses that can help make D.C. stand out as a city that’s more than the National Mall. The proposed regulations would kill these small businesses and force workers to [eat] garbage food like Subway, Quiznos, and horrible D.C. 'pizza'."

* From David Silva: The only thing that will be accomplished by this lottery proposal is that you will push the food trucks out of D.C. and into Maryland and Virginia."

* From James Evans: "As a consumer protection attorney, I sympathize with the D.C. government’s desire to protect public health and safety. But in much of the Corrected Notice of Fourth Proposed Rulemaking, I see measures that will slash lunch choices for hungry District workers and dampen competition for their lunch dollars without countervailing benefits."

* From Stacey Riska: "I find the way that the current rules are administered very unfair. The reality is that the food trucks DO NOT follow the rules as they are now. The law states that you can't just park and wait for a customer to come to you. You have to be 'contacted,' then serve your customer, then leave. THIS IS NOT HAPPENING."

* From Mikala Brennan, owner of Hula Girl Truck: "There are more trucks then proposed MRVs that the city will roll out — so some trucks will be ‘out of luck’ with the lottery."

* From the Institute for Justice: "As we explain in our comments below, the Institute calls on the District to scrap the current draft of the regulations and instead issue narrow, targeted rules that address actual health and safety issues while leaving food trucks free to compete and succeed."

* From Charles H. Ellis III: "Food trucks effectively reduce vehicular traffic congestion downtown, and maximize the value of parking spaces. In places like 21st Street and Virginia Avenue NW, where there are few restaurants, food trucks make it possible for workers to eat without having to drive to some other part of town for lunch. Moreover, while one food truck may take up two car spaces for two hours at lunchtime, it is likely to serve lunch to approximately 100 people in that time, whereas two cars parked to visit a restaurant might mean lunch for only two to eight people. That is a pretty good use of the parking spaces."

* From the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington: (The association did not submit a public comment.)

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires ingesting more calories than a draft horse.
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