America has a proud history of mobile food vendors who have gone on to become magnates of industry. Marcus Goldman, founder of Goldman Sachs, found his first job in America peddling food from a horse-drawn cart on the streets of Philadelphia. JW Marriott, founder of the hotel chain, had an A&W root beer franchise in Washington, D.C.
Now the town that gave Marriott his start wants to make life more difficult for today’s version of Goldman’s cart–food trucks:
D.C. Food Truck Association chairman and Red Hook Lobster Pound co-owner Doug Povich says trucks could end up winning proposed locations with little weekday lunch traffic like Navy Yard, Historic Anacostia, Minnesota or Benning avenues NE, and Friendship Heights. Because they’ve spent $150 for the spot, they’ll likely go the first time. But if they’re losing money there, they may not want to come back the following weeks, Povich says. The result would be empty parking spots that nobody else could use for four hours….
And then there’s the possibility that food trucks may not get a spot in a mobile vending zone at all. In that case, finding a location to vend in the central business district could be tough. Last fall, the D.C. Food Truck Association measured sidewalks throughout the area and found that eight of the 10 most popular vending locations had fewer than 10 feet of unobstructed sidewalk, which would make them off-limits under the proposed rules.
New York City already has a tangle of legislation that effectively makes food trucks illegal there, despite their popularity. It is illegal to sell merchandise from metered parking in the city, and the state Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that this applies to food as well. Food trucks are uniquely mobile, allowing them to relocate in response to regulation:
If the D.C. Council passes the regulations as they are now written, Basil Thyme may not be the only food truck putting the brakes on business. Several food truck owners say they are considering shutting down or moving their operations to Virginia, Maryland, or other states if the regulations prove too limiting.
If D.C.’s proposal passes there may be no more food truck lunches in the District–free or otherwise.