After four years, the Council of the District of Columbia finally passed rules to regulate the burgeoning mobile food industry that seem to please all sides. Restaurant owners were hoping the new dining option would be a flash in the pan, but it seems the new rules and the food trucks are here to stay.
After a marathon hearing on proposed food truck regulations in May, it became clear the would-be rules needed “more time in the oven” as Benjamin Freed of DCist, put it. When the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington approved the original plan, the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington claimed it would put its members out of business. But the revised rules, unanimously approved by the council, seem to be a compromise everyone can live with.
The proposal creates “mobile roadway vending zones” which lets truck operators win access to 180 designated mobile vending spots in a monthly lottery. The trucks must have at least six feet of unobstructed (parking meters do not count as obstructions) sidewalk by their parking space, reduced from 10 feet in the original proposal (which counted parking meters and other non-obstructions as obstructions). The bill also reduces the fine for parking at an expired meter -- a change the food truck association pushed hard for -- from $2,000 down to $50 for the first infraction and doubling for subsequent offenses. For those trucks not lucky enough to land spots in the lottery, they must be at least 200 feet away from the designated mobile vending zones -- which is a reduction from the 500 feet in the original proposal. If an unassigned food truck parks in the spot of a vendor who won it in the lottery, the offending vendor could face a fine of $2,000.
Despite heated rhetoric from both sides, and even outlandish claims that the food trucks could be used in terrorist plots, it appears this bill, which Mayor Vincent Gray is expected to sign before the June 22 deadline, solidifies food trucks’ place in the D.C. dining scene.