WASHINGTON, May 10, 2013 - Washington DC Food Trucks may get the boot today if new regulations are approved by the DC City Council.
On May 10, 2013, The District of Columbia City council will either keep the old regulations regarding Food Trucks or adopt new regulations.
The real issue is not the regulations but the enforcement, and currently, The Metropolitan Police Department is the enforcement arm of all District of Columbia regulations and laws.
According to confidential sources, authorities concerned about terrorists using food trucks required adding manpower to monitoring the trucks. The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly concerned about the number of food trucks increasing in crowded metropolitan areas like New York City. Officials there claim that the size and the number of modifications in trucks them would allow a terrorist to install a large bomb and drive it into “high profile locations”, “high pedestrian traffic areas” and “high-rise office buildings,” where they can inflict heavy damage.
The propane tanks inside food trucks could easily become explosive devices. In 2011, for example, the food truck Tasty Kabob suffered a serious propane tank explosion on the streets of Washington DC.
Several years ago, the Metropolitan Police Department quietly disbanded its vending unit leaving no police vending experts to monitor DC food trucks. This fact has not been lost on food truck vendors and a wild, wild west has ensued on the streets of Washington DC.
The lack of enforcement of the current regulations has brought us to the point where several groups, led by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, are pushing for new regulations because the old ones are not enforced. The restaurant association is pushing new regulations that limit food truck locations and create a lottery system to select which trucks are allowed to operate at specific locations.
On the opposite side, Che Ruddell-Tabisola, the political director of the DC Food Truck Association, wishes to continue with the status-quo. Under current regulations, food trucks can park on any down town city street for unlimited periods of time even though regular auto visitors in Washington DC are limited to two hours at most.
To demonstrate its clout, The DC Food Truck Association on May 6 organized Day Without A Food Truck, at Farragut Square in Washington DC to show the area what the situation would look like under new laws. The trucks parked around Farragut Square, taking up prime parking spaces for up to six hours, but refused to sell food from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, again thumbing their noses at the Police Chief Cathy Lanier and the Metropolitan Police Department.
Food trucks are threatening to leave for Arlington if new regulations limiting food trucks to two-hour parking or forbidding food truck sales are passed.
Food trucks are great business incubators and over ten food trucks have gone on to open permanent locations around the District of Columbia. The new regulations may inhibit this incubation pipeline.
In Montgomery County, Westfield Wheaton Mall is launching a pilot program that will allow food trucks licensed in Montgomery County to park on Mall property. The premise is that food trucks will develop a following and become new food court tenants. According to Kevin Caulson, regional Manager for Westfield, the addition of Food Trucks will add variety for the 7 million annual shoppers and office workers in Wheaton. According to a Monday, May 6, 2013 article in the Washington Times, Owners of food trucks typically make 700 to 1,000 per day. Wheaton Mall is charging $1,000.00 per month.
DC Council members Mary Cheh and David Grosso publicly support the old regulations. Mayor Vincent Grey supports the new regulations.
However, debating regulations, new or old, is a waste of time until and unless the Metropolitan Police Department re establishes and fully staffs it’s vending unit. Without a Metropolitan Police Departments vending unit in place, new laws or old, food trucks will essentially stay unregulated and may even pose a terrorism threat.
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