City Council President Stacy Head modifies proposed food truck laws

City Councilwoman Stacy Head introduced a new ordinance last week that modifies several aspects of proposed legislation that would loosen some restrictions on and increase the number of permits for food trucks and other mobile vendors.

The changes follow a sometimes-contentious meeting earlier this month of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee in which the Food Truck Coalition made its case for the updated laws, while the Louisiana Restaurant Association sought to have some input into the matter, saying it was not against the idea of the new laws but that it did have concerns about them.

Head had proposed allowing food trucks to park 50 feet from brick-and-mortar businesses, but the new ordinance would increase that distance to 100 feet. A restaurant could waive that buffer. Right now, city law prohibits a food truck from parking more than 600 feet from a business.

The new ordinance also changes the boundaries of where food trucks would be allowed to park. It would ban them in the area bounded by the Mississippi River, North Rampart Street, Esplanade Avenue and Howard Avenue. The southbound side of North Rampart Street between Esplanade Avenue and Canal Streets would be OK for trucks to use, according to the ordinance.

Frenchmen Street between Esplanade Avenue and Royal Street would be prohibited under the ordinance.

Head said during the recent meeting that she was willing to increase the prohibition area to Howard Avenue in an effort to please opponents.

The amount of time a truck can remain in one place would continue to be four hours under the new ordinance, an increase from the 45-minute time limit that exists now.

The new legislation adds 100 additional permits for food truck vendors for a one-year pilot program.

In order to get a permit, food trucks must have commercial general liability insurance and written proof of compliance with rules and regulations of the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

Head has said the laws that govern food trucks in the city need to be updated since they were last reworked in the 1950s and do not work well with the food truck industry that began to blossom after Hurricane Katrina.

Andrew Legrand, an attorney representing the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, said during this month’s committee meeting that food trucks and restaurants are in a “David vs. Goliath” fight and that the LRA has used a “fear-based campaign” to stop passage of new laws.

Paul Rotner, president of the LRA’s New Orleans chapter, said during the same meeting that he and his colleagues do not oppose food trucks in theory and that the two types of businesses can “coexist.”

He pointed out, though, that trucks have unfair advantages since they pay less property taxes and trucks have more lenient sanitation standards. Legrand and Rachel Billow, president of the Food Truck Coalition, disputed that claim.

The updated legislation is expected to be heard at another committee meeting before the full council votes on it.

This story was altered on Feb. 25, 2013