Business Associations Pushing to Get Food Trucks Taxed, Capped–And Soon
Prince of Petworth checked in with Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who says that she's considering emergency legislation to slap a moratorium on the number of food trucks on D.C. streets, and tax those that remain. Indeed, D.C. Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Janene Jackson confirms that she's teamed up with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and the Apartment and Office Building Association to ask for the cap, as well as a 10 percent sales tax, since proposed regulations that would govern food trucks are unsatisfactory.
"It's not that we don't want mobile food vendors," Jackson said. "We're in a deficit, and if bricks and mortars have to pay up, then we all have to pay up."
My colleague Alan Suderman is also hearing that the issue could come up as soon as tomorrow's Council legislative meeting, where members will be voting on a plan to close the budget shortfall.
For all the background you need, check out our dearly departed Tim Carman's cover story from a few months back.
UPDATE, 4:30 p.m. - Bowser says that the issue won't come up tomorrow, and clarifies that she strongly opposes a moratorium on the number of food trucks (I initially misread PoP's post).
UPDATE, 5:18 p.m. - Asher Huey, an online organizer helping food truck vendors in their regulatory campaign, says that Bowser's office hasn't yet received the Chief Financial Officer's scoring for a proposed tax increase, which means it can't be included in the gap closing plan. Also, incoming Council Chairman Kwame Brown sat down with several food truck owners and said that while he opposes a moratorium and would not support a tax in the budget legislation, he would like to see a sales tax bill next year that could be debated and implemented fairly.
But AOBA's Shaun Pharr is more optimistic about the sales tax's short-term prospects. "In light of the city’s current financial distress, it will come as no surprise if the sales tax aspect comes up in budget deliberations between now and the end of the current Council Period," he e-mails. Pharr praises rules recently passed in San Francisco that both make it easier for vendors to get permits and allow brick-and-mortar businesses a forum to voice their concerns before permits are granted. And some restaurants, he says, are even interested in starting up mobile branches themselves. "However," he writes, "...while mobile vending is desirable, it is both illogical and inequitable to let it proliferate in an almost entirely unregulated, Wild West fashion."