Could Charlotte be the next North Carolina city to reform needlessly restrictive food truck laws? If a recent forum held by liberal activist group Action NC and today’s Charlotte Observer editorial are any indication, the Queen City may be joining the nationwide push to give more freedom to mobile food vendors. Today’s editorial hits several good points:
In each of those cities, along with others nationwide, hundreds of food trucks offer consumers wonderfully inventive food, while giving entrepreneurs a way to start a business with a minimum of overhead. In Charlotte, there’s only a sprinkling of choices, thanks in part to a restrictive 2008 ordinance that put dozens of trucks out of business and discouraged others from putting wheels to pavement here.
That ordinance primarily punished taco trucks, which parked near residential neighborhoods in Charlotte. Residents complained about noise, trash, crime and loitering, but instead of working to find a solution that could keep the trucks rolling, the City Council tightened the rules, requiring the trucks to be parked 400 feet away from residential property, and restricting the hours the trucks could work. Other truck owners have complained about restrictive permitting rules.
Now, at the urging of Action NC, the council is reconsidering the ordinance. Action NC, which hosted a forum on the issue Tuesday night, proposes extending the hours a truck can operate, so that vendors can reach morning workers before 8 and later at night. The group also would like the council to ease restrictions on operating near residential neighborhoods.
The council should be open to tinkering the ordinance, while respecting that residents don’t want to hear a food truck clanking around their neighborhood early in the morning or late at night. One place to start: change the allowed hours of operation, which would permit trucks to operate more freely in commercial areas such as uptown and nab consumers on their way to work – or the bar crowd at night.
The City of Raleigh recently loosened its incredibly restrictive food truck ordinance, but those efforts came up short. The new Raleigh laws are still designed to protect existing restaurants at the expense of the consumer.
Unlike Raleigh’s half-hearted reform efforts, Charlotte has a real opportunity to open access to food truck entrepreneurs. There is doubtlessly a need for basic regulation to ensure food trucks conform to health requirements and don’t pollute their surroundings, but these regulations must not be so restrictive that they prevent customers from accessing food truck fare altogether. Allowing for longer hours and less-onerous distance requirements would be a step in the right direction.
Truth is Justice says
The article published by the Charlotte Observer is full of inaccurate information. They claim that the ordinance “primarily punished taco trucks” It’s not true. The ordinance applies to all mobile food vending trucks regardless of the fare that they prepare. The Observer also opined that the 2008 Ordinance affected uptown Charlotte which is untrue. The section of the ordinance that regulates uptown exclusively was put in place in 1987. Much of the interest in mobile food trucks revolves around food truck circles which are considered special events in Charlotte, and are allowed under a different ordinance. This is a much more liberal ordinance. As far as the government endorsing restaurants over mobile restaurants, that is absolutely acceptable. The government is ensuring that the mobile nature of the business is not lost by letting them stay in one place forever. Those brick and mortar businesses pay property tax and have invested in the areas they serve. The mobile nature of vendors means they do not invest, and do not incur the consequences of a stationary business. They operate with lower overhead and compete directly with restaurants. If allowed to swarm them it creates a serious problem for businesses that have no ability to move once the damage is done.
Neal Inman says
Sorry, I don’t think restaurants should be protected from competition just because they have lower fixed costs. That is their competitive advantage. As a consumer, I want access to the most options availible.
Truth is Justice says
You are apparently in the minority. Charlotte’s government allows mobile food vendors to *fairly* compete with brick and mortar restaurants while trying to preserve the integrity and vitality of business corridors and neighborhoods.
Neal Inman says
The minority? Hardly. When an a blog from Civitas and the lefty community organizers at Action NC are in accord on an issue, I’d say there is broad agreement across the political spectrum.
I’d prefer that governments and existing businesses not determine what constitutes “fair” competition. It is one thing to prevent a food truck from violating your property rights-denying them access to different areas of town altogether is another matter. Laws should never be designed to protect existing industries from new forms of competition.
Your specter of swarms of food trucks wrecking uptown Charlotte or downtown Raleigh is hardly convincing. Many people go to a food truck as an alternative to fast-food places, not when they want to experience local establishments.
Basically, I don’t want you to use the power of the state to deny me access to a food truck, or deny an entrepreneur the right to create a new business that creates value for society and himself.
Truth is Justice says
Broad agreement across the political spectrum is accurate. The Charlotte city council voted unamimously in support of the revised mobile food vending ordinance in 2008. Additionally, it passed with bipartisan support.
You can go to Action NCs “petition” which is quite a novel. It is unclear exactly what they want. There are about 500 signatures after 6 months. 2/3 of which are not people who live in Charlotte.
I didn’t make any claim that food trucks would swarm uptown Charlotte. They have swarmed specific streets in Charlotte which is how the 2008 revised ordinance came to pass. Raleigh is not Charlotte. They have their own ordinances. The Observer didn’t reference Raleigh nor did the title of your blog “Charlotte Observer correctly calls for saner food truck regulations”. Nor do I care, becasue I don’t live in Raleigh
You can feel that government shouldn’t establish what is fair competion. They can and they do. Most voters support that idea in NC. Your perspective on the issue is limited is focused on the individual rights aspect, but as with many industries and trades, there are consequences to other individuals and regulations are in order. Charlotte allows mobile food vending trucks while preserving other industries and protecting the quality of life for residential areas. Just as a business wants the right to go out and make money however they can. People want the right to enjoy the peace and tranquility of their home and their neighborhoods. Similarly people who invest in their business and pay property tax do not want trucks using the ROW to sell in front of their store or setting up a permanent businesses adjacent to them while not paying taxes. Charlotte has regulated vendors – not banned them.
Get it RIGHT says
First of all I am a food vendor and we do not want to be in neighbor hoods to begin with. There is not enough foot traffic to justify being there. Downtown is the best place to be based on gross sales determined by the number of people walking by the truck.The above mentioned ordinances aren’t the problem. If people did there homework they would know it was the zoning department that creates the problem.
1. 400 ft. from housing , not really a big problem
2. Can’t park on the street “this is a big Problem, zoning doesn’t want us parking on streets because they would not be able to find us ($130.00/month)
3. It’s hard to find a good place that you can get approval to park anyway thanks to the restrictions of property management firms, and the non compete clauses.If we could park on the street it would open up the entire market to vendors
Listen we need to be around large groups of people to make money. That means lunch crowds near business not neighbor hoods. It not all the governments fault but the restrictions on street parking is the real problem
I want to start my food truck company how can I go by start my own business