Are DC food trucks regulated?

On May 10, 2013, The District of Columbia will either keep the old regulations regarding Food Trucks or adopt new regulations. Photo: DC food truck

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2013 - 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 their enforcement.  Currently, The Metropolitan Police Department is the enforcement arm of all District of Columbia regulations and laws.

Several years ago, according to confidential sources, the Metropolitan Police Department quietly disbanded its vending unit. 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 that 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 also lobbying to limit Food Truck locations and create a lottery system.

On the opposite side, Che Ruddell-Tabisola, the political director of the DC Food Truck Association, wishes to continue the status-quo, where 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.

The DC Food Truck Association also prefers the existing situation since the Metropolitan Police Department fails to enforce any of the current regulations.  

Seventeen food trucks organized an event on Monday, May 6 , called Day Without A Food Truck, at Farragut Square in Washington DC and 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 and taking up valuable parking spaces. 

Food Trucks are threatening to leave for Arlington, Virginia if new regulations are passed, which include a two hour parking limit.

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.  

DC Council members Mary Cheh and David Grosso publicly support the old regulations. Mayor Vincent Grey supports the new regulations but it is a waste of time until and unless the Metropolitan Police Department re-establishes it’s vending unit. Without a Metropolitan Police Departments vending unit in place, new laws or old, food trucks will essentially stay unregulated.

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