NOLA City Council Food Trucks Meeting – Recap

Big news!  On Tuesday 10/08/12, Rachel Billow and Andrew LeGrand of the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition (NOFTC) met with NOLA City Council to discuss changing the City’s antiquated mobile vending laws. Councilmember Stacy Head acted as council “sponsor” for this discussion. This was a landmark moment – the first time the NOFTC and City Council have addressed this issue formally. The meeting was extremely positive, and as the Times Picayune reported:

No one expressed opposition Tuesday to the general idea of loosening the rules. Instead, much of the talk focused on how the city could give the burgeoning industry a boost.

While this was simply an introduction presented to Council’s Economic Development and Special Projects Committee about the issues and need for change, as well as a chance for the public to weigh-in, we believe this positive collaboration with the city and community to lift restrictive mobile vending laws, streamline the permitting process, and help support stronger small business mobile food development and neighborhood revitalization will be changed and improved as early as Mardi Gras 2013. You can watch the video of NOFTC’s presentation and Council discussion HERE, or simply flip through the NOFTC’s presentation: New Orleans City Council Presentation by The New Orleans Food Truck Coalition.

In summary: The discussion focused on 4 key outdated issues in the current ordinances – it should be noted these are laws that have not been updated since the 1950s: 1. the need to lift the current cap on 100 total mobile food permits in the city, 2. the need to change the 45 minute “parked in one place” language in the ordinances currently interpreted (or some feel misinterpreted) by the city, 3. Allow food trucks and other mobile vendors in the CBD, and 4. changing the current 600 foot parking buffer near restaurants and schools (that’s two football field lengths) to something more reasonable and in-line with other food truck friendly cities’ laws.

Other discussion points included clarification and assurance that food trucks and mobile vendors are required to have health permits and are inspected just like restaurants, and that the mobile vendors fully promote and agree to helping develop a “pack your trash clean-up” policy for their businesses to help prevent litter and garbage issues where they park.  Council also brought up looking at regulating mobile vendors such as push carts, those selling simple foods on parade routes, fresh produce and grocery vendors, snoball and ice-cream trucks, and full kitchen food trucks as slightly different entities, rather than lumping them into one group as they currently are. Permit fees were also discussed along with policies around parking on vacant lots and parks, and protecting quality of life issues such as noise, traffic and litter in residential areas. A key important discussion centered around laws that respect restaurants, but also support the development of small food businesses, many of whom are low income entrepreneurs. Councilmember Stacy Head agreed that food trucks and other mobile vendors are an important part of community revitalization and economic development efforts in the City, and feels she has seen the benefits of food trucks to existing restaurants and retailers (called complimentary retail clusters in the urban development world), as well as encouraging the ongoing evolution of the food industry in NOLA. All agreed that mobile food vendors help promote tourism and NOLA’s important and unique  culture and culinary heritage.

Council is now looking at best practices and examining the NOFTC’s recommendations, the current laws, and beginning to solicit input from the public. If you’d like to give input, Councilmember Stacy Head will be sponsoring a Food Truck Festival in Central City from 5:30 – 7:30 pm on the  2000 block of Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard tomorrow night (Thurs 10/9/12), with Stakeholder meeting right before the festival. Contact Councilmember Head’s office for more information and/or additional citizen input opportunities.

Once again, we are thrilled with the strong and positive support for food trucks by citizens, businesses, and City Council. Stay tuned for updates and news at here at Nolafoodtrucks.com. And a big ongoing thank you to New Orleans for recognizing how much food trucks benefit our community!

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