Policy

Arlington Cracks Down on Food Trucks, Delicious Tacos and Cheesesteaks Bail Out

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doug the food dude

There's a high density of foodie types in the inner Washington, D.C., suburb of Arlington, Virginia. You know, the kind of people who would love to "discover" a great new hole in the wall or food truck. Too bad the county is doing its darnedest to chase away would-be vendors.

In recent week, Arlington police have started enforcing the previously ignored 60 minute limit on curbside idling time. An hour might seem like a long time for an ice cream truck to hand out cones or a hot dog cart to dish up some half smokes. But some of the more enterprising mobile chefs need a little more time:

What's most difficult for the food truck vendors is that their one-hour limit is up by the time they're able to successfully park, heat their grills and get the operation in order, said [Doug Maheu, who operates the Doug the Food Dude food truck].

The trucks must then "shut down and move with customers in line," Maheu said, or face action from the Arlington County Police Department.

"We need a minimum of three hours to be able to successfully operate," he said.

But who would be complaining about exciting new eating options? Oh right, the competition:

[Maheu] said he thinks the increased enforcement has to do with complaints from restaurants.

"I'm guessing they may be trying to squash their competition," he said. Lynne Breaux, president of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, which represents many Arlington County restaurants, said she has heard county restaurant owners complaining about the trucks. 

Some food truck owners are responding by bailing out, such as Bada Bing food truck owner Nicholas Terzella, who makes pretty great cheesesteaks:

"Police have been staking trucks out. When I was parked in Crystal City a few weeks ago, an Arlington County police officer sat across from Chic fil A for over an hour. In this time, multiple cars pulled up to 2200 Crystal Drive and double parked (this happens daily). None of these cars are EVER ticketed. The officer sat there for 1.5 hours and ticketed us."

"This is the first time in my 2 years of business that I have ever received a ticket," he continued. "I admit, parking in those particular locations is AWFUL!! That's why we can't just leave after the 60 minutes and just grab another spot. This rule ends our lunch service early and makes staying in Arlington impossible. We have to change it now or Arlington will soon be a food truck wasteland."

Others are choosing not to expand, such as Osiris Hoil, owner of District Taco, a trailer that sits on a Rosslyn sidewalk:

"At first, we had a small budget and couldn't afford a food truck," Hoil said. "But now, with this problem, we have no plans to get one. This rule is not fair. … It doesn't make any sense."