By Mike Steely
Been downtown lately? Notice various food trucks here and there in the city? These mobile vendors sell everything from hot dogs, ice cream, burgers, fried pies, crepes, sandwiches, BBQ, Mexican and Caribbean food and so much more. Many downtown workers seem to like the idea but, until now, where and when the food trucks can operate has been pretty limited.
After 20 months of a pilot program for food trucks downtown the city’s Office of Business Support is seeking public input for a proposed Mobile Food Unit ordinance. If you have a comment about the food truck policy in Knoxville you’ll need to make it before Wednesday.
The proposed ordinance is linked on www.knoxvilletn.gov/mobilefood and the city will consider your comments and adjust the proposed ordinance if needed. The final proposal goes to the City Council’s December 17th regular meeting.
The food truck pilot program began in April 2014 and the vendors have had to complete an application and go through an inspection process.
Patricia Robledo, Knoxville’s Business Liaison, told The Focus that so far there have only been a few comments from truck vendors and citizens. One of the vendors said the auto insurance requirement was higher than needed and another vendor said that a food truck zone should be created closer to the heart of the city. She said that downtown citizens seem to enjoy having the food trucks.
“The only place it hasn’t worked out is at the Visitors Center where the food trucks were not using the space and people wanted to park there.”
As noted in last week’s Focus, the proposed ordinance will make several changes to the current temporary policy including reducing the permit and renewal fees. The food truck operators could operate on private property and pay $200 annually. Those on right-of-ways were paying $400 annually. Under the new plan the vendors will pay $200 annually and renew for only $50 no matter where the truck operates.
The city will also consider offering a temporary permit, which would be good for three consecutive days for $75 and can only be issued twice in the same calendar year. Those food trucks will be under the same restrictions as those who purchase an annual permit.
Patricia Robledo, the City’s Business Liaison, said that the pilot program gave the city a great opportunity to explore the best practices and evaluate feedback.
“The ordinance will provide vendors, customers and citizens with guidance and certainty on the safe and reasonable operation of Mobile Food Units,” she said. She added that the proposed ordinance does not contain language forbidding food trucks to park in front of “brick and mortar stores.”