Brick-and-mortar restaurants and food truck operators have been going at it for several years now. The tension is understandable. A food truck selling burgers outside a traditional restaurant also selling burgers is the kind of in-your-face-competition that is bound to create friction.
A much-welcomed truce may be on the horizon in Sacramento. City Councilman Jay Schenirer has been engaged in shuttle diplomacy, literally shuttling between food truck vendors parked in one room and traditional restaurateurs in another.
The goal? Schenirer wants to craft a food truck ordinance that satisfies both sides while enhancing the public's access to an increasingly popular food trend.
The deal has not been finalized but the broad outlines are beginning to take shape. The new rules will involve both geography and time that is, restrictions on where food trucks can operate, for how long and at what locations. Different rules will apply to different parts of the city.
For example, restaurant-rich J, K and L streets downtown and the midtown grid will be treated differently than all other parts of the city. A different set of rules will operate within a secondary boundary that covers the rest of the grid and then still looser rules for the balance of the city. In addition, there will be restrictions on the number of food trucks in any one area and their proximity to each other and brick-and-mortar restaurants in a neighborhood.
And while no locations have been nailed down, there is serious discussion about creating food truck pods areas in the city where four or five trucks could park for longer periods of time.
Not all brick-and-mortar establishments are hostile to the mobile food trend. In fact, some bars that don't serve food have invited food truck vendors to partner with them. In addition, a number of traditional restaurants have launched their own fleets of food trucks, most notably Willie's, the local burger chain.
So food trucks are here to stay. As anyone who's waded through the huge crowds at Sacramento's recent mobile food truck fairs knows, these are not your granddaddy's food trucks. Some offer gourmet meals that rival the fare of fine dining establishments.
Food-truck regulation is necessary to ensure safe food handling and sanitation, to deal with traffic issues and noise, to guard against litter and to ensure fairness for traditional restaurant owners who pay rent and property taxes. But the city's current ordinance, which bars food truck vendors from parking longer than 30 minutes and then forces them to close down at 6 in the evening November through March, is far too restrictive.
Any new ordinance must be tested in the real world. Some ideas worked out on paper may need to be tweaked. But the city is right to seek a workable compromise.
The two sides have agreed to meet again next Friday and possibly finalize the proposed rule at that time. We think there's a way for both factions to find a way to end this food fight, and get back to their kitchens, mobile and stationary.
The Bee's past stands
"Local eaters want to experience the mobile food craze that has been sweeping the nation. What are these Korean tacos? What the heck is an escargot lollipop?"
May 4, 2011