Head defers to Landrieu in rewriting of food truck ordinance

After working for months to pass legislation that would make it easier for food trucks to operate, City Councilwoman Stacy Head said Thursday she has decided to let Mayor Mitch Landrieu take the lead.

Landrieu unexpectedly vetoed an ordinance early this month that would have loosened several of the restrictions governing when and where the vendors can sell their street food. The council could have voted Thursday to override the veto, but instead deferred action.

That’s because the Landrieu administration is in the process of writing its own legislation to deal with the food truck fleet, Head said. The draft ordinance largely mirrors the one the mayor blocked, but is a bit of an improvement, Head said.

Head has long believed the city’s food truck regulations are outdated, which prompted her efforts to begin writing new legislation months ago. Head said Thursday it was “highly unlikely” she could get the five votes needed to override the mayor’s veto, which is why the council did not vote on the issue during its regular meting.

“My goal is to keep this moving forward which is why I’ll continue to defer (a vote),” Head said.

In April, the council voted 6-1 to relax some laws for food truck operators while adding a handful of new requirements and allowing another 75 trucks to operate for one year as part of a pilot program.

Landrieu, however, said he was compelled to block the law because it did not appear able to withstand legal challenges.

The vetoed ordinance would have expanded the areas where food trucks could operate in the Central Business District, allowed food trucks to stay in one spot for up to four hours and require trucks to have access to restrooms near where they parked.

The ordinance also would have reduced the allowable distance between a food truck and an existing restaurant. Right now, city law prohibits food trucks from parking closer than 600 feet. The ordinance the council passed reduced that distance to 200 feet, but there were questions during debate about whether the distance requirement was constitutional. That aspect appeared to be at the heart of Landrieu’s veto.

According to a May 9th email exchange among Head; Eric Granderson, Landrieu’s director of local government affairs; and Scott Hutcheson, the mayor’s adviser on the cultural economy, the administration has proposed several changes, including removing the buffer zone and bathroom requirement, reducing the $600 permit fee, and adding the ability for food trucks to get a “franchise agreement” that would allow them to operate in prohibited areas, except for the French Quarter.

Granderson said “the final number of permits is still in discussion” and that the administration is considering adding language that would set automatic incremental increases for the number of permits.

Head said she expects the administration’s new ordinance to be ready early next month. “The ball is in his (Landrieu’s) court,” she said.