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The Food Truck Debate: One More Day to Have Your Say on 24 DCMR 5

DCRA_MAIN_LOGO The Great DC Food Truck Crisis of 2010 is coming to a head, people! What crisis, you say? Well, you've no doubt noticed your lunch options have gotten dramatically more diverse over the past year or so, and your afternoons more colorfully populated with mustachioed curry-men and bright pink cupcake mobiles. That would be the food truckers, and thanks partially to the growth of social networking, their numbers have grown exponentially.

But with growth comes growing pains. Existing laws concerning street vending pertain almost exclusively to stationary food carts, like the ubiquitous hot-dog stand, with a few safety standards for old-school ice cream trucks. These laws were put on the books at a time when mobile vendors of entire meals were not even a consideration. As such, there has been more than a little bit of head-butting and confusion, as the vendors stretch the existing laws to their limits, and local residents and businesses deal with the consequences.

On June 25th, the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs proposed legislation to deal with the problem, and to formally codify food trucks in their present incarnation into the city statutes. As is customary, DCRA has published the proposed law, and has solicited input from the public. Originally, the intended cut-off date for comments was yesterday, but response has been so dramatic that we've been given an additional day to have our say!

If you have thoughts on the issue, you have until 5:00 PM TONIGHT to give the DCRA a piece of your mind. If you would like to read the legislation yourself, all 64 pages are available here for your perusal. I'll give you a moment...

Pretty exciting stuff, huh? I scanned the document myself, and found it to be mostly incomprehensible, as I am rather dim, and not a lawyer. Best I can tell, the law intends to designate zones where the trucks may operate freely in specific spaces assigned by lottery, demarcate areas where they are prohibited altogether, and to keep them mobile everywhere in between, stopping only when flagged, and staying only so long as there is a queue.

Most area food truckers are very much in favor of the legislation, and one group got together to set up yesontitle24.com, urging Washingtonians to speak up on the legislation's behalf -- take a look, and if you agree, there is a form letter you can send to lend some support.

Alternatively, the RAMW has some issues with the legislation, and has issued some suggested alterations, which you may see here. They make some reasonable requests to my mind, like a minimum distance from sidewalk cafes and active restaurants, and clarification of some of the vague language.

Whether you side with the truckers, the restaurants, or your own best interests, remember, you only have till 5:00 PM tonight to put in your two cents. All comments should be addressed to Mr. Helder Gil of the DCRA. His email address and the official DCRA posting notice are listed at the bottom of this column.

If you have any strong feelings yourself, and would like to sway fellow readers into action, please post a comment and let us know what you think! I am still undecided myself, and would appreciate the input.


Helder Gil, Legislative Affairs Specialist
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
1100 Fourth Street, SW, Room 5164
Washington, D.C. 20024

[email protected]


Alan Wu

I personally think that this proposal is a great way to improve the food quality in DC. Being a chef who grew up in Detroit, I used to think poorly of the food quality in Detroit, but after moving to DC, I realize how bad the food is here. I can understand the higher prices in food, but the food quality just don't meet up to the price range. Even for a 10-15 dollar meal, you can't find any good restaurants here, but a few of the food carts that I have been to, they were great for its price.

Food carts will push the quality of the restaurants up and encourage more people to get into food carts. If you are worry about food carts taking over all of the businesses, then write a bill to limit the amount of hours that they are able to operate. Some people want to open restaurants, but do not have the money to. Food carts is a great way to showcase the possible food quality and earn enough money to open a restaurant in DC.

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