February 4th City Council Meeting Recap

NOLA Food Trucks 1

Thank you to all those who attended today’s Economic Development Committee meeting to show your support for NOLA food trucks!  For those of you who were unable to attend, here is a brief summary of the meeting. The next steps in this process are unclear at this juncture, but rest assured we will continue to move forward with the support of key City officials and community advocates. We will let you know as soon as possible.

You can watch a video of the City Council meeting HERE

Summary:

  • First, it’s worth noting that 6 of the 7 council members attended today’s meeting to discuss this issue, despite the fact that only 4 are on the economic development committee charged with addressing the food truck issue (Clarkson is the Chair; Gray & Cantrell are Members; and Head is an Alternate).  This demonstrates strong interest in this topic.
  • Andrew Legrand, Attorney for the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, gave a presentation discussing the benefits of food trucks for our community (e.g., increased foot traffic, low-barrier opportunity for entrepreneurs, etc) and addressing some recent objections to food trucks (e.g., sanitary concerns, limited parking, access to restrooms, competition for restaurants, etc).
  • City Health Commissioner Dr. Karen DeSalvo then spoke briefly to share the health department’s plans to work on strengthening the current health code for both mobile vendors to ensure public safety.  Stacy Head jumped in to clarify that the health department is focusing on revising the health code for both restaurants and mobile vendors.
  • Paul Rotner, President of the Greater New Orleans Chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, then read a letter addressing his concerns about the sanitary nature of food trucks (including several examples that had already been refuted by Legrand’s speech).  He also expressed concerns about where food truck employees would use restrooms.  And he claimed that because restaurant owners pay high property taxes, food trucks should not be able to park nearby.  He also stated that the LRA is not opposed to food trucks, as long as their operations are properly enforced by the health department and restricted to areas that do not have restaurants.
  • Two members of the public (Cassandra Sharpe, a commercial real estate broker in the Warehouse District, and Steve Gundlach, owner of Terrazu and Steve’s Diner in the CBD) spoke out against food trucks operating in the CBD, due to concerns about generators for residents and competition for restaurants.Several members of the public spoke in favor of food trucks.  Tamara Muno of Velvet Espresso explained that she is opening up a restaurant on O.C. Haley based on the vibrant nature of the food truck round-ups she attended on that street.  Barrie Schwartz, founder and owner of My House: Empowering Culinary Entrepreneurs, an event planning company focused on alternative dining, discussed the business opportunities that food trucks have presented for her as a local entrepreneur.  Food truck owners Taylor Jackson and Theresa Galli discussed their ability to act on their entrepreneurial dreams by starting their own food trucks here in New Orleans.  And Christopher Brancato, co-owner of Merchant Cafe in the CBD, discussed his work with Marcel Wisznia and the NOFTC to bring food trucks downtown.  He reported record-high sales on the day that 5 food trucks parked directly across from his cafe for the CBD Food Truck Round-Up earlier this month.  He explains that food trucks bring foot traffic, and therefore benefit store-front businesses.  He also remarked that, if he found that his business was suffering due to competition with food trucks, he would know it was time to reinvent his business.
  • Stacy Head announced that she would reluctantly amend the previous proposal, due to some opposition to her initial plan.  She plans to increase the proximity restriction from restaurants from 50 feet to either 75 or 100 feet.  Also, food trucks would be allowed to operate in a more limited area of the CBD than previously proposed.  The area from Howard to Esplanade and from the River to Rampart would no longer be included in the proposed area accessible to food trucks.

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