Dueling petitions address food truck status

Advocate staff file photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- A rally featuring food trucks took place recenty in the New Orleans Central Business District on Common Street near Carondelet Street. Five trucks served up everything from gumbo to Cuban sandwiches. The rally was part of an ongoing effort to revamp the city's outdated food vendor laws.
Advocate staff file photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- A rally featuring food trucks took place recenty in the New Orleans Central Business District on Common Street near Carondelet Street. Five trucks served up everything from gumbo to Cuban sandwiches. The rally was part of an ongoing effort to revamp the city's outdated food vendor laws.

City Council President Stacy Head’s efforts to update decades-old regulation that governs food trucks in the city have met some opposition.

An online petition begun by restaurateur Reuben Laws aims to “stop the proposed legislation to allow food truck vendors to do business in the CBD and park 50 feet from another restaurant.”

Head last week introduced an ordinance that would, among other things, increase the number of permits for food trucks in the city and allow them to park closer to the Central Business District, although not inside its limits, and within 50 feet of existing restaurants.

The interest in food trucks here has grown in the years since Hurricane Katrina, Head has said, prompting the need for the updated legislation.

But possibly allowing food trucks to sit so close to some restaurants isn’t sitting well with about 280 people who signed Laws’ petition by Monday afternoon. Some noted that restaurants that have to pay rent or mortgages could be affected by the change.

Laws’ petition reflects those concerns.

“Restaurant owners in the CBD are about to have their sales invaded on by the food truck industry should new legislation get passed in February,” the petition reads. “Restaurateurs have made great investments in their product and have worked hard to build a following of customers in their area. To think that a food truck can soon park 50 feet from our doors and sell food during peak hours of business for 4 hours is truly concerning!!!!! This legislation should be stopped immediately!!!!!!!”

Attempts Monday to contact Laws were unsuccessful.

To counter Laws’ petition, the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, a network of food truck operators, launched its own.

“There is no doubt that thriving food truck cultures coexist with vibrant restaurant scenes, and New Orleans is no different,” the Food Truck coalition’s petition reads in part. “There are over 1,300 restaurants in New Orleans today — an increase of over 50% since Hurricane Katrina — yet business is better than ever. Consumers are attracted by competition and choice.”

Nearly 500 people signed that petition by Monday afternoon.

While Head had wanted to have the full City Council vote on the issue as soon as possible, she said last week it will go to the economic development committee for additional public comment. That meeting is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 5.

The council could potentially vote on the proposed ordinance two days later at its regular meeting.