Head, Cantrell introduce Landrieu-authored food truck ordinance

More than a month after City Council Vice President Stacy Head threw up her hands following a mayoral veto of an ordinance that she said would have improved when and where food trucks can peddle their vittles, she’s introduced new legislation to govern the mobile restaurants.

The 33-page proposal, which Head and Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell introduced Thursday at the request of the Landrieu administration, revisits a topic that led to intense council debates this spring.

“I am pleased with the ordinance as introduced ... as it accomplishes many of the original goals I set for updating the city’s extremely outdated mobile vending laws,” Head said in a prepared statement. “For nearly a year, I have worked ... to improve these laws so that this micro-industry led by culinary entrepreneurs can continue to grow, contribute to our local economy, and most importantly bring much-needed commerce to some of our under-served communities.”

While Head wanted to initially update the city’s nearly 60-year-old food truck laws and later deal with other mobile-vending laws, the new ordinance is more comprehensive, rewriting the city regulations for all mobile food vendors, including stationary vendors, ice cream vendors and foot, pushcart, or animal-drawn food vendors. Additionally, the new ordinance defines and provides limits for food trucks that are not in the city code.

The ordinance loosens the areas in which some food trucks could operate thanks to a secondary “franchise” permit, caps the number of food-truck permits at 100 and does away with a yearlong pilot program that would’ve added another 75 permits. It also abolishes a controversial rule that led to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s May veto: a requirement that trucks must remain more than 200 feet away from any brick-and-mortar restaurant unless its owner gave permission for the truck to park closer. Right now city law sets that space at 600 feet.

The council voted 6-1 in April to approved the ordinance after lengthy debate and several amendments, but the fact that Head admitted that there might be constitutional problems with the distance requirement bothered Landrieu.

The mayor unexpectedly killed the ordinance since he said it did not appear able to withstand legal challenges.

Following that action Head said she would let the ordinance die rather than try to override Landrieu’s veto since she did not think she could rally the necessary five votes. One of the larger changes to the new ordinance deals with where the food trucks can and cannot operate.

In general, the ordinance prohibits food trucks in the:

  • Central Business District, French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny.
  • Any residential or park district as defined in the city’s comprehensive zoning ordinance.
  • On Maple Street between Audubon Place and Leake Avenue and on Oak Street between Broadway and Monticello Avenue.
  • In an area of Lakeview bordered by Louisville Street, Vicksburg Street, Robert E. Lee Boulevard and Conrad Street.
  • On St. Bernard Avenue, Parish Avenue, Elysian Fields Avenue or Franklin Avenue between Interstate 610 and Lakeshore Drive.

There is, however, a provision in the ordinance to allow permit holders to apply for a separate “franchise” to operate on a case-by-case basis in any of those areas except for the Quarter, which will remain off limits.

Permits and franchises would become invalid in some areas during Carnival season and during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, according to the ordinance.

Initial permit fees would cost $50, with $400 due at the issuance of a permit. Each permit holder would need to pay that much each year to renew a permit.

An initial franchise fee would cost $175, with a to-be-determined amount due upon its issuance and renewal. That rate, to be used to “reasonably compensate the city for the cost of the restricted use of the public right-of-way,” would be recommended by the Department of Public Works and approved or denied by the City Council.

The ordinance caps any franchise fee at $28,200.

Any violation of the ordinance would be ground for a revocation of a permit or franchise or a fine up to $500.

“The food truck scene in New Orleans is growing rapidly, and we owe it to these small business owners to make sure we help that growth continue,” Landrieu said in a prepared statement. “Working with the council and all stakeholders involved, I am confident that these new revisions will put current mobile food vendors on a level playing field and provide opportunities for more investment.”