Just days before a public hearing on the proposed new vending regulations, the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington cooked up a political statement to give downtown office workers a taste of what the District could be like under the new rules.
Called "Day without a Food Truck," the association pulled together more than 15 mobile vendors to park around Farragut Square and, well, not vend any food from noon to 1 p.m. Monday. The stunt was designed to give Washingtonians a "glimpse into the future" of food trucks if the regulations are passed, said Che Ruddell-Tabisola, the association's political director.
The latest round of proposed vending regulations have been a lightning rod for controversy ever since they were published in March. The public's reactions have been largely negative, while the association has argued, after measuring the sidewalks throughout the Central Business District, that the regulations would block trucks from much of downtown and its hungry workers, save for these proposed mobile roadway vending zones where the city would set aside at least three spaces for food trucks.
At least one vendor has already threatened to quit if the regulations are passed, while others argue the District's trucks could flee to Arlington if the regs become law. The food truck association obviously wants to give Washingtonians a taste — or a lack thereof — of a potential future with fewer mobile vendors. The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, which has lobbied the city for tighter controls on trucks, thinks their mobile counterparts are exaggerating the regulations' potential impact.
"We don't see these proposed regulations as among the more onerous of the cities that we've surveyed. We see these regulations as more flexible," said Andrew Kline, the longtime legislative consultant for the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. "The devil is going to be in the details. To say at this point with these regulations as to what it's finally going to look like, I don't know how anyone can say that unless they have a crystal ball. Because I can't say that."
The restaurant association has started its own lobbying campaign for the regulations; it sent out an e-mail on Friday calling the food truck association's map of the Central Business District a "fraud" and saying that the more established group does not support the regulations as a backward attempt to "thwart the competitive power of the new kids on the block."
While the two associations are battling it out in public, the public will have its own chance to chime in on the regulations. A public roundtable on the proposed regulations is set for 11 a.m. Friday at the Wilson Building.
In the meantime, a glimpse of the potential future of food trucks was on view at noon Monday on Farragut. Seventeen trucks, said Ruddell-Tabisola, were "ready to make a [financial] sacrifice" to pull off the event, including ChefDriven, Curbside Cupcakes, Fojol Bros and the Red Hook Lobster Pound DC truck.