Alexandria may join the modern food truck era on Saturday, six years after it was launched in the District in 2009.
At its Tuesday meeting, the Alexandria City Council passed on first reading a proposed ordinance to allow mobile vendors on public and private property. The ordinance now goes to a public hearing on Saturday when advocates and critics will weigh in on the proposal to open Alexandria to street food. The city currently allows food trucks only at construction sites, farmers markets, special events and for private-party catering.
The proposed law could open up Alexandria's streets, but with a number of caveats. Among them, food trucks:
• would be limited to vend between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
• may not vend for longer than four hours or "in accordance with existing posted public signs, if more restrictive"
• must fit within the width and length of the parking space
• cannot be located within 20 feet of an outdoor dining area
• are limited to three per block on public streets
• must have at least 5 feet of unobstructed sidewalk next to the vehicle
• cannot play any music that can be heard outside the vehicle
• must supply their own trash cans
• cannot vend on residential streets "unless catering a private event"
• must obtain owner's permission to vend on private property
Alexandria's city manager will also have the ability to create the equivalent of Washington's mobile roadway vending zones in areas that are congested with traffic and pedestrians, such as Old Town or Del Ray. These "restricted street vending zones" would presumably place even tight controls on trucks.
Despite all the limitations, the DMV Food Truck Association supports passage of the proposed law, says Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the group. "Is the proposal perfect?" says Ruddell-Tabisola. "No, but it's a great step forward.”
"I think the people want it," the executive director adds. "Of course, there are brick-and-mortar interests and entrenched interests that are opposing this.”
Alexandria has been debating the merits of allowing food trucks for more than a year. Last year, the city created the Food Truck Policy Advisory Work Group, a 10-member committee comprised of citizens, restaurateurs and food truck operators. The group met from September 2013 to March 2014 to seek solutions to the issues surrounding food trucks.
Despite the committee's efforts, though, some city officials are apparently pushing for further limits, including a proposal to restrict vending to "off-street locations on public or private property with the permission of the property owner." Ruddell-Tabisola isn't sure which way council members will vote.
"If I l knew that, I’d buy a lotto ticket,” he says.
The public hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Alexandria City Hall, 301 King St.