N.O. council president proposes food truck code overhaul

Advocate staff file photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Diners line up Oct. 11 during a gathering of food trucks on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in Central City. Jefferson Parish, which passed strict rules six years ago that have kept food trucks out, is suspending those rules for a similar event Monday designed to bring attention and people to Fat City.
Advocate staff file photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Diners line up Oct. 11 during a gathering of food trucks on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in Central City. Jefferson Parish, which passed strict rules six years ago that have kept food trucks out, is suspending those rules for a similar event Monday designed to bring attention and people to Fat City.

BY DANNY MONTEVERDE

New Orleans bureau

Rachel Billow parked her food truck, La Cocinita, at Perdido and Bolivar streets shortly before noon Wednesday, blocks away from the Central Business District and its mass of hungry workers who sought lunch. To park too much closer, Billow would have been in violation of a city law that forbids food trucks in the CBD.

Soon, though, that prohibition could change.

City Council President Stacy Head will introduce new legislation during next Thursday’s council meeting designed to give a broader area in which food trucks can operate and update decades-old laws that cap the number of permits at 100 and the time each truck can remain in one spot at 45 minutes.

She hopes to have the council vote on the new ordinances in February.

“It’s time to move on it,” she said of the issue.

Ultimately, Head wants to do a complete rewrite of existing city codes governing food trucks since, she said, they’ve been reworked in a piecemeal fashion during the years, and many do not dovetail with the modern-day food truck industry that began to develop post-Hurricane Katrina.

Meanwhile, she will focus on nine specific areas:

Billow, who works with the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, a network of food truck operators, said there has been a positive response from many restaurants to the idea of loosening the existing regulations.

She said she has submitted some documentation to the Louisiana Restaurant Association in an effort to keep that group informed about the possible changes but has not heard back.

A message left with the LRA on Wednesday was not returned.

“I think it’s a real nice complement to the culinary scene in New Orleans,” Billow said.

In the end, Billow said, the goal is to bring dining options to neighborhoods that lack them and to grow a form of small business that requires little overhead to start and one that can sometimes transform into a brick-and-mortar business.

“Once the laws change here, I think the food-truck industry will really grow,” Billow said.

In an effort to draw attention to the issue, several trucks will be allowed into the CBD on Thursday for a rally.

The event, organized by My House: Empowering Culinary Entrepreneurs, will feature nearly a half-dozen trucks from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Carondelet and Common streets.