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Food Truck Regulation at a Standstill

Wes Burden Wes Burden Food Truck Regulation at a StandstillPhoto by Walker Evans.
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Columbus City Council last week proposed new legislation regulating specific provisions food trucks in the city would have to abide, specifically meeting parameters on truck sizes and whether trucks would be able to operate on specific grounds.

Facing backlash from an array of people and organizations involved, City Council has ushered in a new tone and details better suitable to the working conditions of trucks and its owners.

A meeting was held last week, chaired by Council member Michelle Mills, to discuss new laws preventing specific sized trucks from operating within the public right-of-way, which include city streets and sidewalks, regulating the kinds of generators and usage food trucks are allowed and establishing criteria for operations on private property. Mills said she believes the proposed mobile food vending codes are essential to the safety and health of the city in a whole.

“We are looking out for the best interests of the city of Columbus and understand there will be some who are not ecstatic with the regulations,” Mills said. “We are moving forward with the best interests in mind and the sole purpose of having members of the city departments at the advisory board.”

Mills would like to move forward on this piece of legislation, citing that after the meeting she will reinforce a planned 90-day window in which the proposed codes could be approved. But, backlash was met from the Central Ohio Food Truck Association (COFTA) and the Central Ohio Restaurant Association (CORA), in regards to being permissive on the issues and not being cognizant of the food truck industry and what it could possibly mean to the business of food trucks and the negative impact it could forge onto the city. In this past week though, City Council has moved away from its stance on limiting the length of trucks as well as the use of external generators from trucks on private property.

Laura Lee, owner of the Ajumama food truck, said she understands the importance of City Council working together with both COFTA and CORA to clarify the language being written into the proposed codes.

“There are places within the legislature that need to be clarified, and I know COFTA and its’ president have been working with them on this,” Lee said. “We put together a list on Monday of what we would like to see clarified, what we would like to see removed and laying out what we think we can live with on what comes out of this bill.”

Amongst the issues of clarification are the rights and usage of private property by food truck vendors and owners of restaurants or bars.  Proponents for food truck vendors argue that private property handling by both the owners and vendors should come at their own discretion, without interference from the city as long as they are not violating any laws and not disturbing citizens in any way. Jen Burton, co-owner of Seventh Son Brewing, hosts food truck vendors and believes they should be able to operate without these new proposed restrictions.

“If it is my private property then I don’t see why they (City Council) would care to restrict vendors,” Burton said. “They bring business to us because we don’t serve food and we care deeply about the food vendor industry. It is a great symbiotic relationship that we have.”

With food truck vendors preparing for the busy summer season, those who operate these trucks still question the details of the bill and where the changes stand to impact permanent truck placement throughout the city. Lee said transparency is critical when it comes to facing the issues and laws regarding food vendors this upcoming season.

“A lot of people are telling me specific codes are not in the legislation but if you watch the presentation, some of these issues are brought up,” Lee said. “We have taken the approach of working with City Council in trying to educate them and helping them understand how it works, ways they can help make changes, and why some things are unfeasible. We look forward to creating a good environment for dialogue.”

For ongoing discussion on the regulation of food trucks, CLICK HERE to visit our Messageboard.

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5 Responses to Food Truck Regulation at a Standstill

  1. Achekov March 6, 2014 9:39 am at 9:39 am

    You know, I am all for “food vending codes essential to the safety and health of the city in a whole” but I don’t think that the council has adequately communicated how most of these changes are needed to achieve that goal.

    • Walker Evans
      Walker Evans March 6, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am

      I’m curious what prompted all of this in the first place. I’ve not heard of any real issues of public health problems or potential dangers coming from food trucks on private property. Are problems being anticipated?

      We’ll continue to reach out Councilmember Mills for updates as this progresses. Hopefully she will continue to be responsive with our requests for information. The public deserves to know what’s going on from City Council in a timely and professional fashion.

  2. Eugene_C March 6, 2014 3:32 pm at 3:32 pm

    I think that is why most people were caught off guard by this and are a bit defensive. It feels like it just came out of the blue. Looking forward to updates from the council.

  3. Ned23 March 7, 2014 7:34 am at 7:34 am

    I think Columbus is ready for some Green Party candidates on the city council. Time to shake things up.

  4. Joshua877 April 24, 2014 4:15 pm at 4:15 pm

    The “reason” that the city council is doing this “out of the blue” is because they can’t really tax what a mobile vendor sells, so like all parasites the politicians need an excuse to bleed anything that makes a profit.

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