By C.N. Staff Writer
Over the last few years the District has seen a surge in food trucks across the city. There are nearly 200 food trucks that over a variety of food each day of the week and can be seen all around the city. With this new industry taking root across the city, many restaurant owners have complained that the trucks are in direct competition with their customers.
A hearing by the District’s council was held to decide where established locations for the food trucks would be located. The proposed crackdown on food trucks comes as growing concerns over parking and brick-and-mortar restaurants have complained about space, customer competition and unfair overhead costs compared to traditional restaurants.
The council is considering establishing 20 mobile roadway vending locations that would include 180 spaces for trucks. A monthly lottery would be held for each of those locations and the food trucks would be able to operate in those areas between 10:30am and 2:30pm. Trucks would be limited to the 20 locations with a 500- foot buffer in which no other trucks could locate.
Student leaders joined more than 50 residents and business people from around the city to speak out during the hearing against a proposed crackdown along food truck owners who oppose the regulation. Kristina Kern, owner of Stella’s PopKern testified saying, “If there’s a lottery, and all the trucks that win that lottery are kabob trucks, you’re stifling customers’ choices.”
However, traditional, brick-and-mortar, restaurant owners testified in favor of the regulations, citing safety hazards and a decline in revenue due to trucks being parked out front or very close to their restaurants. Steven Loeb, who owns Loeb’s NY Deli on 17th and I streets, likened the food trucks crowding Farragut Square every morning to “the Wild West.”
Nicholas Majett, Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and Terry Bellamy, Director of the Department of Transportation (DDOT) testified at the hearing and were questioned by Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), chair of the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Orange asked the two directors for recommendations about proposed regulations that would restrict vending around the Central Business District. This district is downtown, where many food trucks can be seen during lunch hours.
During testimony Majett said, “Let me be very clear that if these proposed regulations are not approved and the District government was to strictly enforce the current laws and requirements for food trucks,” he had said, “that would have a drastic and immediate impact on the District’s vibrant food-truck industry.”
The current laws he refers to require vendors to pull over only when people are waiting and to leave when their line of customers has disappeared, often called the “ice cream truck” rule. Majett said his agency has been holding off on enforcing the rule, but if regulations fail he might feel more pressure to enforce it.
The D.C. Council has until June 22 to pass, reject or take no action on the vending regulations, after which members cannot amend the rules without passing emergency legislation. Emergency action to amend the rules would require the approval of nine of the 13 council members. The council begins summer recess on July 15th.