Tysons Corner has developed a thriving food-truck scene in recent years. Now, the colorful trucks serving up bahn mi, paninis, lobster rolls and bratwurst for lunch are running into trouble with authorities.
During the past couple of months, truck owners occasionally have received tickets from police for operating in Tysons Corner.
So far, food-truck entrepreneurs have not been deterred from setting up shop on Solutions Drive, behind SAIC’s campus, and Boone Boulevard. Instead, they’re trying to get organized to work on a solution with county leaders, as they have in other jurisdictions.
Wolf Antoni, who owns the Bratwurst King truck, got his first $50 ticket this month, a fine representing about half of what he earned that cool, rainy day. On a good day, he can bring in a few hundred dollars during lunch.
“At this point, I’m not intending to pay it and will go to court,” Antoni said. “Hopefully we’ll get a judge to agree with our case.”
Antoni said he and other drivers see a conflict: The county health department licenses the trucks for operation, but there is essentially nowhere in the county for food trucks to legally operate.
Under the county code, vendors may not park a vehicle on any street in a business district to sell merchandise, county spokesman Brian Worthy said. The Tysons office complexes that food trucks frequent would appear to meet the state’s definition of a business district.
Food trucks also must have a health department license and a solicitor’s license and must comply with zoning regulations.
Antoni and other food vendors have reported that the tickets being issued are for selling merchandise from a state-maintained roadway, which would apply to essentially every street in the county.
“We’re all small businesses. We pay taxes and everything else,” Antoni said. “Why would you hinder a small business from prospering?”
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said she is interested in ironing out the issues. “It is not something that we have a lot of experience with,” she said.
This year, Bulova endorsed a proposal by Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth (D-Providence) to look into the regulations and other issues involving food trucks.
Bulova is now planning to conduct a roundtable meeting within the next month with relevant county staff, food-truck owners and the chamber of commerce to dig into all the regulatory matters.
“How do we deal with that in a way that we can make it possible for these folks to safely do business?” Bulova said.
For example, she said, they might be able to legally set up in private parking lots. Or, the county might need to work with legislators to adjust state codes.
Some food-truck operators in Fairfax County are looking to form a local chapter of the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington (formerly the D.C. Food Truck Association) as an organized way of working with the local government.
The association successfully has improved regulations for food trucks in the District and Arlington County, said Uyen Nguyen, whose Lemongrass food truck occasionally serves up Vietnamese food in Tysons. Nguyen is a former board member of the association.
“Fairfax County has a handful of trucks that only operate within the county,” she said.
Other trucks, like hers, might also frequent Arlington and the District. “They’re going to put some of these trucks out of business,” she said.
Nguyen said food trucks are very much in line with the county’s more urban, pedestrian-oriented vision for Tysons.
“I think the regulations need to catch up with demand, especially in the Tysons area,” she said. “To encourage more pedestrian traffic, you need things like food trucks.”