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Happytown: Orlando approves new rules & regs for food trucks

Pilot program places new restrictions on previously unregulated food-truck activity

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KEBAB KIBOSH

And now from the There Oughta Be a Law! Department of Orlando: Somebody in the city recently realized that Orlando has been swept by the “local and national phenomenon” (their words, not ours) known as “mobile food vending” (ditto). Per a recent memo to Mayor Buddy Dyer and the City Council from Dean Grandin in the city’s planning department, food trucks have brought “activity and vitality to commercial districts and special events alike.” So, naturally, we’d better take action.

On May 20, the City Council approved a temporary-use permit measure. Starting immediately, food trucks wishing to do business in Orlando must obtain a mobile food-vending permit, a license from the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Hotels and Restaurants, and a business tax receipt. They must then agree not to do business in a right-of-way (sorry, guys, no more curbside service) or in any “unimproved” areas (paved parking lots only), and they’ve got to stay out of the “downtown core” completely unless they’re under concession license with the city, which is a whole other ballgame. TheDailyCity.com’s Food Truck Bazaar is kosher, because the Fashion Square Mall is specifically named as a “Special Event” location where food trucks can gather.

Trucks can operate on private property in some areas of the city – certain Main Street neighborhoods like Thornton Park and Mills 50, for instance – at approved retail malls and in the downtown community redevelopment area. But the property owner has to provide a notarized letter giving permission, and trucks can only be there one day per week unless they obtain a conditional-use permit to operate in that spot permanently.

So, no more empanada or sushi trucks outside the Imperial Wine Bar, no more Korean taco trucks parked seven days a week at the gas station on the corner and no more trucks downtown at all, unless they’re in concession agreement.

Why? Little food-truck birdies tell us that some local restaurants were pissed that these restaurants-on-wheels were stealing their customers, serving up convenient, cheap food to patrons of local bars. Then there was that whole flap in the Milk District last year, in which weekly Tasty Tuesday food-truck gatherings infuriated some local business owners who said the trucks were blocking driveways, taking up street parking and otherwise hindering business. Back then, the city promised to come up with a plan to keep the trucks at bay. At least a little.

When we talked to the city, we were told that technically food trucks were never really legal anyway and technically, anyone operating one before really shouldn’t have been because there was no ordinance saying they could (uh, pedicabs, anyone?). “City staff members worked with members of the mobile food-vending community to establish this new two-year pilot program to make it easier for food trucks and carts to operate within certain areas of the city,” writes city spokeswoman Cassandra Lafser, who adds that it’s just a pilot program and it could be altered if it’s not working out.

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