Food truck operators hope city updates ordinance restricting their night hours
INDIANAPOLIS , IN – The popularity of gourmet food trucks is prompting city officials to rethink a 1975 law restricting the operating hours and other practices for such businesses.
The possible tweaking of the old law follows complaints by several food-truck operators that the restrictions — such as prohibiting them from operating on public streets from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. — are too severe.
“Lately,” said John Ban, owner of The NY Slice pizza truck, “we’ve been getting harassed by police officers Downtown and in the Broad Ripple area.”
Ban’s business has received two citations this month in the Broad Ripple area, confirmed Sgt. Linda Jackson, spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. One was for selling after 10 p.m., and the other was for stopping to sell pizza along a street designated too busy for such activity by Marion County’s official thoroughfare plan.
City officials, however, want to keep such mobile food vendors unfettered by unnecessary rules, said a spokesman for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.
“If this language needs to be brought up to date a little bit,” said spokesman Marc Lotter, “we would welcome the City-County Council to look at it.”
The old ordinance includes language regulating fold-out stop signs and music from loudspeakers, Lotter said, leading him to speculate that it was written to provide governance of ice cream trucks.
Lotter also disputed rumors that the city wants to clamp down on the trucks because of their burgeoning popularity.
A recent post on West Coast Tacos’ Facebook page referred to a “new ordinance” that prevents the business from keeping late hours — indicating a lack of awareness that the applicable law is 36 years old.
“There is no new effort,” Lotter said, “to regulate food trucks.”
Approximately 25 licensed food trucks now roam Indianapolis’ streets, said Matt Kornmeyer, owner of Scratchtruck and an active promoter of the trend.
Different mobile food vendors offer a variety of specialties for time-challenged patrons with discriminating tastes: Asian dumplings, cheese steaks and Cajun fare, to name just a few.
The success of such businesses often depends on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, where owners can quickly inform customers about where the food truck will be parked next.
Lines of several dozen patrons had formed around 1 p.m. Tuesday at two food trucks parked near Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis — one operated by West Coast Tacos and another run by Scratchtruck, which offers burgers and “modern comfort food.”
Patrons expressed relief at hearing of city officials’ apparent interest in easing restrictions.
“We’re not telling restaurants with their own buildings they have to close down at 10 p.m.,” said Malinda English, 35, a criminal justice student. “Well, these trucks are their buildings.”
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