Regulation

Food Trucks: Will D.C. Be the New L.A.?

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freeloaders or lunchtime saviors?

When it comes to street food, D.C. has offered little more than the occasional hot dog stand or ice cream truck for many, many years. Tourists and offers workers alike labor under the terrible yoke of dirty water dogs and deli sandwiches.

But as the price of opening a restaurant gets higher and higher, even the snootiest food entrepreneurs are turning to the the Good Humor man for inspiration, filling trucks with lobster rolls, Korean-fusion tacos, or cupcakes and taking to the streets.

Naturally, a development like this one—which makes thousands of ordinary residents very, very happy, and a few vocal business owners and merchants' associations very, very unhappy—isn't likely to go unnoticed by the city council. A new set of proposed rules is set to hit the council in the next few weeks and the future of food trucks is teetering on the curb. Restaurant owners are in league with currently licensed vendors—they complain that the city is unfairly changing the rules on them and that the food trucks aren't pulling their weight in taxes—while food truck owners are rallying thousands of Twitter followers to mass action. Emotions are running high, and everyone is hungry,

The Washington City Paper breaks it down in a great story this week. You should read the whole thing, but here's the guts:

There are at least two doomsday theories floating out there for the food trucks. Pressured by business groups, the council could find a way to reject or table the new regs, continuing a cumbersome status quo. Worse still, councilmembers could actually pass a law that kills off roadway vending in downtown D.C., no questions asked. Whatever happens, crunch time is approaching. By November, in terms of street-food ingenuity, the District could either become the next Los Angeles or remain the same bureaucratic backwater burg that has long allowed processed blandness to dominate its streets.

If you're in D.C. and you're a Twitterer, sign up to follow the trucks of your choice from this list.

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  1. The DC city council is 100% Dems. They would never pass an ordinance whose only reason is to protect monied interests.

    Dems are for the people, man.

    1. When Ron Freakin’ Dellums was running for mayor of Oakland, one barstool supporter tried to convince me that he would be a good mayor because “he’ll listen to ALL the people!”

      He was very passionate about that, for reasons I can’t figure.

    2. The DC city council is 100% Dems.

      Sort of. There’s actually two “independents” always among the at-larges. They elect the four at-large members two at a time every two years (staggered four year terms), and there’s a bylaw saying that the two elected can’t be from the same party– so they go on down the list until they find the first person who ran as a non-Democrat.

      Also note that all decisions of the mayor have to be ratified by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more major…

    3. Oh, and the gay guy on the council, naturally, was originally elected as a Republican in 1997 but changed his affiliation to Independent in 2004 or 2006 or so.

  2. If it moves, tax it. The pols will find a way to take their cut.

  3. Die, hipsters.

  4. This is such obvious bullshit if there wasn’t ample evidence I would think people were making it up. Who the fuck elects people like this? Is the city’s voting population solely made up of restaurant owners? Or does this kind of thing just not get reported in the LA birdcage liners?

    1. It’s a one-party third-world kleptocracy. Unless there’s a ton of concentrated voter outrage over an issue, what the voters think doesn’t matter.

      The restaurant lobby, on the other hand, provides junkets, campaign funds, jobs for friends and family, etc.

      1. I say without hyperbole that one hundred percent of regulation is meant to hand out an advantage rather than protect the public, but isn’t this what city papers do? Don’t they find an abuse such as this, hammer it home and gin up public outrage? Isn’t that what we’re told is a main value of print journalism?

        1. (Don’t ask me why I turned this into a rant on city newspapers.)

        2. Maybe if more libertarians got into journalism.

          1. Maybe if more libertarians got into journalism.

            There are a few; Freedom Communications‘ self-proclaimed mission is “to advance human liberty.”

        3. That’s tough to do even if they want to hold the govt accountable. For example, the Chicago Tribune has been ripping on Mayor Daley’s dictatorial governing style non-stop for close to a decade and it hasn’t hurt him one bit; he can still tell the City Council to pass a plan to sell off the parking enforcement system without seeing the details or else and they meekly obey.

          1. You can’t cite Chicago. That city’s electorate and the political machine they continue to keep in power is an extreme example.

            1. Tragically, it isn’t. Chicago (and New Orleans and Newark etc) may exceed other cities in degree, but they don’t differ in kind. Certainly DC operates on the same system.

  5. The Minneapolis City Council approved food trucks.

    http://www.downtownjournal.com…..ategory=92

    1. Why should government be in a position to approve any goddamn thing? Phuck us all running…we’re doomed.

      1. Your comment has been approved.

  6. Why isn’t facebook on the share tab anymore?

    1. Nobody uses facebook anymore. What year are you living in?

    2. LOL someone’s stuck in the 00s

  7. Austin has had a boom in mobile food recently. Of course, the City Council is trying stifle innovation in the name of safety.

    http://www.statesman.com/news/…..34557.html

    The new regulations were recommended by the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department , which said that public safety was its top priority as it pared down a longer list of initial recommendations. They come with two new fees for vendors ? a $125 application fee and a $125 Fire Department inspection fee for units that use liquified petroleum gas.

    The council approved three new full-time positions to deal with mobile food vendors, including two new inspectors. The city currently has one inspector devoted full time to mobile vendors, said Sue Simons, supervisor of the city’s mobile vending program.

    1. Damn it, I need a new name.

      1. Have you considered “Nuclear Titties Gingrich”?

        … Hobbit

  8. FOOD!!! ON A TRUCK!!!

  9. Ever hear of James and Patti Tiu? They owned a burrito cart at 15th & K, NW for years. Lines woudl stretch down the block for those un-fricken-believable burritos. I’m a carnivore and I never even noticed the lack of meat in them, they were that good.

    Anyways, Patti and James ran afoul of the DC Health Department – ot for making anyone sick (the Health Dept wouldn’t give two shits – pun intended – about that).

    He fought the good fight (see here), but decided he’d had enough and moved to Wheeling, WV, where they’re now enjoying those awesome burritos.

    Fuck DC

  10. New Haven, CT has been having a renaissance in food trucks and carts. So far the city and businesses have been supportive too — probably because many of the carts are operated by restaurants. The only restrictions have been sensible ones to make sure that people can still walk on the sidewalks.

  11. I remember a big whackamole going on in DC 15 or 20 years ago about street vendors. The council passed a law (supported by hizzoner Mayor Barry) specifying the exact dimensions and appearance of the stand every vendor would henceforth be required to operate from. The cost to build the things was up around $400 or so. Clearly an intended barrier to business entry, when all most of the vendors probably needed would have been a $50 portable table.

  12. The hell of it is that JW Marriott started his business empire running a tamale & root beer stand in DC back in 1934. Think of all the tax revenues and employment DC might be enjoying now had it been a more business-friendly environment in the past.

    Even if there are other reasons than taxes why Marriott left the city, who knows, one of these guys running a food truck today might be a future taco tycoon who’d put his international headquarters in the wonderful city that nurtured his success. Currently not DC.

  13. Get rid of the fucking property taxes and then the mobile vendors won’t have that advantage.

    1. That would be too much like people owning their own property.

      1. In Soviet America, property owns you.

  14. Seems like food trucks are becoming more of a thing here in Columbus too. My wife brought home dinner from one tonight.

  15. Phuck the LAPD a large number of times, and the swine inside the beltway as well. How long, oh Lord?

  16. “…while food truck owners are rallying thousands of Twitter followers to mass action. Emotions are running high, and everyone is hungry,…” for tasty food and justice!!! No fusion tacos, no justice!

  17. Heh. Recognized the Fojol Brothers van right away. They are awesome. Finding out where they are is one of the few useful things about Twitter.

  18. Nice gallery and the interview to the people… i think mobiles are changing lifestyle not the food..

  19. yeah dude,, this is not that dashing and attractful,

  20. This sort of government micromanagement was a lot easier to live with when you could slip somebody a few bucks and count on them leaving you alone. At least there was a chance you might influence the inevitable selective enforcement to fall in your favor.

  21. Perhaps Nanci Pelosi was offended we didn’t offer fish tacos?

  22. As long as the laws are not too draconian, we can count on innovation to present food entrepreneurs with a way to reach customers. The site I liked to in my name, Truxmap.com, keeps a realtime map of food trucks in LA so regardless of what the politicians do to try and protect monied interests, those who want to find the trucks, can easily locate them. They have a version for DC too, but the number of the trucks in the city isnt overwhelming yet, so its not incredibly useful like the la version.

  23. From what I’ve seen growing up in Los Angeles, the food truck scene is simply insane right now. I can see the culture spreading to DC, throughout the country, and throughout the world.

    Yummm… I like food.

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