WASHINGTON DC — A protracted legislative battle that has consumed this city — one that has pitted established businesses against start-ups, energized politicians on both sides of the aisle and prompted a grass-roots online campaign — has finally come to an end.
Washington has agreed on regulations for its food trucks.
On Tuesday, the City Council passed new rules for the popular trucks, which have proliferated in the past few years, offering fare like Brazilian hot dogs and Laotian noodles. The regulations still need to be signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray, but the gist is that the operators of the trucks need to apply to a monthly lottery to win the right to park in particularly in-demand downtown zones. Other trucks need to maintain a specified distance.
“It’s a fair compromise,” said Ché Ruddell-Tabisola, the political director of the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington and a co-owner of the BBQ Bus. “Consumers will continue to have choices.”
But the long fight over the rules has enthralled this city, particularly among those who have delighted over the exotic new lunch options, and among conservatives and libertarians who saw it as a parable about the malign influence of entrenched interests and the overreach of the state.
“From a constitutional standpoint, the government has a perfectly legitimate role in regulating on the basis of public health and safety,” said Bert Gall of the Institute of Justice, a public interest law firm that has lobbied on behalf of the food trucks. “But the 14th Amendment is supposed to stop the kind of overreach that inevitably occurs when people, in this case the restaurant association, or an entrenched interest use their political might to install or create regulations that have a negative impact on their competitors.”
In the past few years, the city’s food trucks have thrived, their numbers growing to well over 100. The city decided to revamp its out-of-date mobile vending regulations, setting off a heated four-year back-and-forth. Some restaurateurs pushed for strict new rules, arguing that the food trucks did not pay their share of taxes, and that they remained unfairly free of regulations. The truck owners, in some cases, argued that the restaurants were merely trying to quash their competition.
Find the entire article by Annie Lowrey at the NY Times <here>