So, I am hopeful that the new regulations will be worked out to continue to keep mobile food trucks in DC, and so that the brick and mortar and mobile businesses can all get along. Frankly, I don’t even really see the competition, if a cupcake truck is in farragut north I don’t see how it’s competing with the cupcake establishments in dupont or georgetown. If I want a cupcake and I’m working downtown, I’m not going to fight traffic to get there and then stand in line at Georgetown Cupcake. But with all of the “yes to title 24″ hype, I think there are some problems with Title 24 as written:
Section 556.1-556.2 – Taken together, these sections suggest that food trucks have to keep moving unless they have a customer, and if they are still sitting in the same spot without a customer, have to close. Once they do so they cannot re-open to serve customers at that same location. What if there is a 5 minute gap between customers, do they have to move then? If they are paying for the parking spot, as required by proposed Section 556.3, then why can’t they sit out the meter and keep serving customers that show up? Who’s going to enforce this? Can a food truck be forced to move by a meter enforcer even if they have paid the meter? If so, there’s a potential legal challenge there. A better, and more enforceable, solution would be to allow food trucks to sit in the parking space they have paid for.
Section 556.4 (which makes Section 535 apply to mobile food trucks)– “Vending Truck” requirements – is nonsensical. The section purports to be different than the sections of vending carts and vending stands, and yet requires umbrellas for food trucks. I have yet to see a food truck with an umbrella that meets the definition, other than perhaps FoodChainDC. (But FoodChainDC may be in a different position than other “trucks,” it seems like it could fit into the cart definition).
Section 556.8 – Fines for food trucks within 60 feet of an establishment selling the “same type of food” – This section may be “void or vagueness” as written. That doctrine provides that a government cannot impose fines on conduct that a reasonable person cannot tell is prohibited by the statute. As an example, is a cupcake truck the “same type of food” as a Starbucks that sells cupcakes and muffins? Since there is a Starbucks practically every block downtown, if that is how this is interpreted, that could make it hard to abide by the law. Is a lobster truck the “same type of food” as downtown restaurants like Kinkeads, DC Coast, etc. that serve seafood? Now, are my examples a reasonable interpretation? I wouldn’t consider those to be the same type of food myself, but I can imagine that restaurants that feel threatened would want a broad interpretation of this to keep competitors further away. A better solution would be to take this out or at the least, make it clearer when a food truck may be violating this provision. But why is this provision even necessary? How/who is going to enforce this anyway? MPD?
Section 538 – Advertising – I have seen at least one commenter suggest the restrictions on advertising to only advertising that is the name of the business, price, and food or service sold is an unconstitutional burden on free speech. Without weighing in on that issue at this point, there are some problematic issues for food trucks I see in this section. That advertising of the truck can only be on the “front” and not the back or street side (Section 538.2) seems unnecessary. That advertising has to be mechanically printed and not written (Section 538.4) could also be an unnecessary burden for some food trucks, I have seen handwritten descriptions of items for sale.
P.S. this is not to be construed in any way as legal advice, this is just my personal opinion.
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