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Do Cities Need Better Food Truck Laws?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

Food trucks may be the new trend, but they're not exactly trendy amongst local officials. Cities across the country are citing food trucks for maintenance issues, improper permitting and public disruption. Local restaurants are also complaining, arguing that food trucks "steal" their business.

But like those restaurants, food trucks are businesses that contribute to the local economy. Arguably, cities need to find a way to accommodate the trucks while addressing the community's concerns.

This could be accomplished with better food truck laws.

To be fair, food truck laws already exist in most municipalities. However, they were developed with sidewalk vendors and traditional "roach coaches" in mind. Today's food trucks are different, drawing crowds from across the city.

There are "food truck pods" where a number of trucks meet and throw a mobile food party. They serve food at nighttime and weekend events. There are dozens more, crowding already busy sidewalks at lunch.

Most trucks must acquire a business and vendor's license. They must usually receive approval by the local health inspector. Few have qualms with these food truck laws.

But then there are the cities that require location-specific permits. Trucks change location on a daily basis, making compliance difficult. General permits would perhaps be a better solution. Or what about Cleveland's law, which designates specific areas for sales?

There's also San Francisco's food truck law, which prohibits parking within 300 feet of a restaurant selling similar food. Trucks must also notify businesses when they're in the area. This would arguably give trucks enough flexibility while simultaneously addressing the needs of permanent business.

Better food truck laws can be had. They just require a little cooperation and an agreement to actually follow the rules.

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