New Orleans — Max Rowdon sells coffee and can deliver it from a car. But that’s it. He wishes he could sell it from the back of a bicycle, but he doesn’t have a mobile vendor license.
Instead, he sits at No. 8 on a two-and-a-half-page wait list at City Hall.
His problem is just one of many the mobile food industry faces in the city, according to City Council President Stacy Head. That’s why she and others in the industry are aiming to change the laws.
About a dozen food trucks gathered Thursday night in Central City at Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard and St. Andrew Street. The effort was to draw attention to the cause.
Since Hurricane Katrina, the number of food trucks in the city has grown. One problem is the cap of 100 licenses in the city. But they must look out for where they park, since the existing laws limit them to 45 minutes in one place. They can’t be in the Central Business District or French Quarter, among other problems.
Marcel Wiszia, a downtown developer, sees the trucks as a way to make downtown life more vibrant. It’s not a way to compete with most businesses in the city, he said.
“We think it adds to it, it doesn’t dilute,” he said.
In regard to the number of trucks, the market should be allowed to run its course.
“Let the public decide,” he said.
Rachel Billow, who runs the Latin-American food truck La Cocinita, has said that the model will ultimately help everyone, rather than threaten existing restaurants.
In fact, some restaurateurs are looking into the idea.
Burton E. Benrud Jr., vice president of Café Du Monde, said the 150-year-old institution is watching the progress to see if the famed coffee and beignet stand should enter the food-truck market.
He said that he has a few concerns about the issue, such as making sure trucks won’t usurp existing businesses, but is still interested in the aspect.
“We’re doing the due diligence,” he said as people milled about on the lot on the corner.
Head said the crowd Thursday was bigger and better than she expected.
A meeting among concerned parties — food truck vendors, city officials, local business leaders — had a productive discussion about the proposed changes.
While there is not yet a solid timeline for the new laws, Head said she hopes to soon draft skeleton legislation and is aiming to introduce it by the end of the year.
“It’s aggressive considering we have a budget coming up, but I hope we can do it,” she said.
As for Rowdon the coffee salesman, he can’t wait.
“It’s going to need to be reorganized from the ground up,” he said of the law. “It’ll make it easier for everyone.”
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