Young and Hungry

Restaurant Association Takes Gloves Off in Food Truck Regulation Debate

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington has remained relatively quiet about the most recent round of proposed food truck regulations. The organization didn't submit comments to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs this time around, and it hasn't been nearly as vocal as the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington, which launched an aggressive grassroots campaign.

But in an email to its constituents this afternoon, the restaurant association let it all out. The group reiterated its support for the proposed regulations and stated that food truckers have exaggerated claims that the rules would put them out of business. RAMW also called the map that the food truck association assembled to show where they would not be able to vend under the proposed regulations a "fraud."

The proposed vending regulations will not put food trucks out of business or bring an end to the D.C. food truck scene. They are not a plot concocted to stifle competition, kill jobs or deny consumer choice. Those are merely the contentions of people who apparently are not happy playing by any rules except for the ones they make for themselves," the statement reads.

Food Truck Association Chairman Doug Povich of Red Hook Lobster Pound says he's not surprised or threatened by the statement. "We've had a huge groundswell of public support," he says, referencing a recent boost from the Post editorial page and councilmembers Mary Cheh and David Grosso. And according to his association's count, 95 percent of the public comments reject the proposed regulations.

Read the full email from the restaurant association below. The D.C. Council will hold a hearing about the proposed regulations on May 10.

In one week the D.C. Council will convene a public roundtable in advance of an up or down vote on the fourth version of the proposed vending regulations. RAMW is in favor of the proposed regulations, which provide the necessary framework to make smart decisions about mobile vending in the District of Columbia.

Our hope for the passage of these regulations does not stem from a plan to thwart the competitive power of the new kids on the block. Indeed, it would be foolish to enter the foodservice industry without a desire to compete and differentiate. As representatives of Metropolitan Washington area dining establishments, we fully realize the high costs associated with starting a restaurant and we commend our friends in food trucks who have economized their operations and elevated the dining experience for those living and working in Washington, D.C.

Our goal then is not to diminish the importance of small businesses which contribute to the vibrancy of city life but to ensure that a more formal system of oversight is established and applied towards a segment of D.C.’s food service industry that has for years operated without having to give much thought to the public space it uses to generate private gains.

We firmly believe that the fourth version of the proposed mobile vending regulations provides the impetus for changes in city regulations which are long overdue and will finally bring the regulations into compliance with the law. The proposed vending regulations will not put food trucks out of business or bring an end to the D.C. food truck scene. They are not a plot concocted to stifle competition, kill jobs or deny consumer choice. Those are merely the contentions of people who apparently are not happy playing by any rules except for the ones they make for themselves. Reading just a portion of the proposed regulations will make this painfully clear.

5 Things You Should Know About the Proposed Vending Regulations

1. The food truck map is a fraud.

The map prepared by the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington purports to show that large areas of the Central Business District are off limits for food trucks and presumably other vendors. This map is not only visually misleading, but patently false.

The regulations provide for Mobile Roadway Vending locations, which are shown as ovals on the Food Truck Association Map. On the map, these ovals are colored red, implying that food trucks may not vend there. To the contrary, these especially designated areas for food trucks have NO LIMIT in the regulations on the number of food trucks that may vend there. Instead, there is a minimum of three trucks allowed, but no maximum.

The map also designates most streets in the Central Business District as “off limits” for food trucks ostensibly because of the 10 foot rule. One need only visit any of these streets with a tape measure to discover that there are more than ample spots from which food trucks may operate.  As yet another example of the inflammatory nature of their map, there is no distinction made or explanation given that there are, have been and will always be, blocks that no one may park on. Case in point, the block around the FBI building is severely restricted and secured; marking these blocks by their no-trucks red line exaggerates the purported restrictions that the Food Truck Association is seeing at every turn.

2. The proposed vending regulations will not put food trucks out of business or end the DC food truck scene.

The claims that these proposed regulations, or any regulations, will end the food truck scene in the District are more than greatly exaggerated. One need only look across the country to see healthy, thriving food truck industries with regulations that designate locations, either as specific spots per truck, approved vending cluster areas, or distance-to-business limits. Some limit a food truck by time – 30 minutes per stop in one city – and just one out of the 20 cities surveyed does not impose location or distance restrictions on food truck operators but instead impose a cap on the number of licenses. Obvious in these approaches to regulation is the inherent interest by communities and municipalities to foster healthy and reasonable growth in their food truck fleets while at the same time protecting the interests and safety of all who use the public space.

3. The proposed regulations are not a “plot” dreamed up by restaurant operators to stifle competition.

Instead, the regulations represent an effort to reasonably manage the public space which is used by all residents, businesses, and visitors to the District of Columbia. As these issues have been considered over the last few years, numerous groups have called for regulation and submitted comments to DCRA on the issue: Apartment and Office Building Association (“AOBA”), Georgetown Business Association, the Consortium of Universities, the Council of Business Improvement Districts, the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, the Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District, and yes, the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

4. The passage of these regulations will not make the District an unfriendly place for food trucks.

On the contrary, a look at a more realistic depiction of the proposed Mobile Roadway Vending (MRV) Locations shows that there could conceivably be designated spots for a large portion, if not all, of the existing food truck fleet and other areas where  the trucks can roam and vend freely. This plan could actually foster growth, but in a considered way that will benefit the entire community. Food trucks have continued to flourish in other jurisdictions which have enacted regulations far more restrictive than those proposed in the District of Columbia.

5. The concept of assigning spaces in Mobile Roadway Vending Zones on a daily rotating basis was proposed by the District of Columbia Food Truck Association.

The concept is mentioned in the Food Truck Association’s comment letter dated November 12, 2012, to DCRA. Assignment by lottery certainly assures that such assignments are equitable and if this approach was acceptable to truck operators a mere six months ago, one must wonder why it is not desirable today.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Comments

  1. #1

    The restaurant association is right about a few things:

    1. The map put out by the food trucks is highly misleading - and purposefully so! - since it's meant to win the public relations war of the little food trucks vs. the Goliath restaurants.

    2. The media bias in favor of food trucks has been never-ending.

  2. #2

    I thought that DC Food Truck map was highly misleading. It made it look like food trucks regularly operate in all the red zones all over the city and that they were going to be locked out of all those red spaces. The fact of the matter is that they don't operate in most of the red areas on the DCFTA map and they cluster around areas where there is a known customer base. Those spots do not rove around because they're fixed - Farragut Square, Franklin Square, L'Enfant Plaza, etc.

  3. #3

    The map is surely a fraud, I too agree with the dc guy

  4. #4

    It is funny how RAMW never had an issue with the hot dog street vendors around the mall. RAMW never pressed the issued with them to be regulated over the years. So, why now?

  5. #5

    Hi Jessica, I read the city paper a lot and I enjoyed this article because I eat frequently at Kangaroo Boxing Club and Mothership, both of which started as food trucks and eventually saved up to open restaurants.

    I don't know if you just report on the food scene in DC, but if you are interested in reporting on other types of businesses, I started an eco-friendly company that rents industrial strength plastic moving boxes as an alternative to traditional cardboard moving boxes. It's called Elf Boxes. I know of a few other companies trying to bring green practices into traditional businesses, and if this is something that you're interested in, I would to hear from you and set up a time to talk. Cheers,

    -Pete

  6. #6

    I would note that the above comments supporting RAMW don't provide much support for their claims. I would like to hear more from the pro-RAMW people than just saying "the map is a fraud."

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