NEW ORLEANS, LA – The great City Hall food fight over food trucks could end at Thursday’s meeting of the New Orleans City Council. Then again, it might not.
The council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance proposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration to replace one that the council passed in April but the mayor then vetoed. Debate is expected to start around 1 p.m.
The vetoed ordinance, sponsored by Councilwoman Stacy Head, would have loosened the city’s current extremely restrictive regulations for food trucks. Landrieu said he vetoed it because it was still too restrictive — specifically that it would have created a 200-foot “buffer zone” around brick-and-mortar restaurants where food trucks could not operate. The current law, in effect for many decades, provides for a 600-foot protected zone.
Head said she thought such proximity restrictions, designed to protect certain businesses against competition from other businesses, are unconstitutional, but she agreed to accept the 200-foot restricted zone and several other provisions she did not like as the price of winning enough votes to get her ordinance passed. The administration’s proposal removes most of those restrictions, such as many geographical limitations and a requirement that operators have guaranteed access to a nearby public restroom.
At a council committee meeting Wednesday, debate focused almost entirely on the absence of a buffer-zone provision in the proposed law, with Councilwomen Jackie Clarkson and Susan Guidry making clear they still want such a requirement to help protect fixed-location restaurants they said are one of the glories of New Orleans’ culture and vital to its economy.
In response, Eric Granderson, a former interim council member and now a top aide to Landrieu, indicated that the mayor is likely to veto any ordinance that contains a buffer zone. The city attorney’s office has said it thinks such a provision could not withstand a legal challenge.
The new ordinance would:
- Authorize 100 permits for food trucks alone. At present, 100 permits are authorized for all types of mobile food vendors, including fruit and vegetable sellers, seafood peddlers and others.
- In return for a $400 annual permit, food trucks would be allowed automatically to operate on the streets in most areas of the city zoned for commercial, industrial or mixed use.
- The trucks would be able to operate at any one location for a maximum of four hours.
- They would be prohibited in the French Quarter because the streets there are too narrow and congested to accommodate them.
- The amount of the franchise fees would be recommended by the Department of Public Works, which must also certify that the proposed location would not interfere with traffic. The fees must then be approved by the council, which would be able to impose further restrictions. The fees would be capped at $28,200 a year.
- Operators must have $500,000 in liability insurance, must comply with all city and state health laws, must pay sales tax and must clean up all debris within a 50-foot radius each day. They cannot sell alcohol and their trucks cannot be more than 26 feet long or 8 feet wide.
Find the entire article by Bruce Eggler at NOLA.com <here>