Food trucks will be permitted in Prince George’s County for the first time in a decade and will be allowed to operate after dark in Montgomery County, thanks to bills that were passed by each jurisdiction’s county council on Tuesday.
In Prince George’s, county lawmakers included unusually detailed oversight in their food-truck law, an effort to prevent the return of what they described as substandard roadside vendors that did business in some of the county’s blue-collar neighborhoods years ago.
Today, food trucks are considered trendy, and county leaders said they believe the vendors can spark economic development and provide healthy food to underserved communities.
“I hope we struck the right balance,” said Council member Dannielle Glaros (D-Riverdale Park), who sponsored the legislation. “We’re cracking the door open to start to enable our entrepreneurs to come into our community and provide amenities where we just don’t have them.”
The mobile eateries will have to operate in approved “food truck hubs” located within a quarter-mile of certain Metro stations and county parks. They must comply with strict rules on garbage disposal, undergo extensive safety and health inspections, and pay a considerable licensing fee — $500 for 60-day operation and $3,500 for longer periods.
“This is the most conservative regulatory regime we’ve faced,” said Ché Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the DMV Food Truck Association. “But it lays a foundation.”
A committee of citizens will oversee the food-truck program, which is expected to launch in College Park and New Carrollton, both of which are in Glaros’s district. Each hub will be managed by a coordinator to ensure compliance with the various regulations.
The council capped the total number of hubs at 12. It voted to exclude four Metro stations as possible hub locations — Branch Avenue, West Hyattsville, Largo Town Center and Prince George’s Plaza — after the council members who represent those locations said their constituents were concerned that food trucks would draw crime or trash or have other negative impacts.
Among the vendors who hope to soon start operating in Prince George’s are longtime Bowie residents Corries and Roxie Hardy, both of whom quit their corporate jobs in order to sell barbecue from their truck.
What started as a side job has turned into a full-fledged business called Hardy’s BBQ, which so far has operated mostly in Montgomery County.
Corries Hardy told lawmakers he hoped to soon operate into Prince George’s as well.
In Montgomery County, county council members voted Tuesday to allow trucks to sell food from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. The old law limited food truck sales to between 9 a.m. and sunset.
The proposal for longer hours, which came from students at Wheaton High School’s Innovation Lab, should help the county spice up its traditionally bland night life, said council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large), who co-sponsored the legislation with council member Nancy Navarro (D-Silver Spring).
The bill as drafted was opposed by the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce and the Restaurant Association of Maryland, both of which argued that more comprehensive food-truck regulations are needed.
They were particularly interested in rules that govern how far trucks must be located from bricks-and-mortar restaurants. And they called for the creation of special “food truck operating zones” such as the ones Prince George’s has adopted.
Riemer said additional issues could be addressed in the future. For now, he said, it was important to make the county more hospitable for food trucks.
“My plea . . . is that we allow this to take root,” he said.