Seven years ago, when I worked in the Mayor’s Office, I collaborated with the handful of existing food truck owners, as well as several local government departments and related agencies to craft a regulatory scheme that allowed food trucks to operate legally, safely and affordably in Louisville for the first time in the modern era. Not everyone was thrilled about it.
“These ordinances… kill every mobile food operation that you all are fans of,” one owner wrote on Facebook. “They END our business until we can get compliant.” All hope was lost. “Due to the new ordinances put into effect for food trucks in our city I have canceled all of our public events for this week and next,” wrote another. Their candle burned out long before their legend ever did.
Except it didn’t! In fiscal year 2018, there were a record 91 food trucks licensed in Jefferson County, in addition to seven (7) mobile vendors (like ice cream trucks) and 33 pushcarts (like hot dog vendors), not to mention another 123 vendors with temporary licenses. Multiple food truck owners have gone on to open brick- and-mortar restaurants, create product lines and achieve national recognition. Tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of Louisvillians have enjoyed delicious, local street food.
So, it came as a surprise when the Institute for Justice – a libertarian organization seeded by Charles Koch in 1991 – sued Louisville Metro in federal court in June of last year (without first reaching out to us or sending a demand letter), alleging that our food truck law was unconstitutional. Regardless, Louisville Metro ultimately agreed to strike part of the ordinance regarding proximity to brick-and-mortar restrictions and not treat food trucks differently than other vending operations: hence the amendment pending in Metro Council as a direct result of the Institute for Justice lawsuit and its resolution.
In any event, like seven years ago, there again appears to be some minor confusion/mass hysteria over what the changes being debated now will mean for food trucks in the future. In short, they’ll mean: easier license requirements, application and renewal processes; new access to office districts; closer proximity to residential uses; clearer noise and energy source safety standards; and more equitable, organized metered parking availability for both vendors and drivers.
This idea of Stationary Vending Zones – metered parking areas designated and permitted for vendors to operate during set times – replacing the current practice of reserving or “bagging” a meter seems to be troubling some local owners. But “Food Truck Parking Passes” are an innovation recommended in Food Truck Freedom: How to Build Better Food Truck Laws in Your City – by the Institute for Justice:
One way that cities can accommodate this desire is to sell special permits to food trucks that let them park at metered locations for an extended period of time. These permits may be issued on a periodic basis… or the city can instead sell one-time passes… Once on display, the pass would let the truck legally park at one or multiple spots over the course of the day. The price of these permits or passes could be set at a premium above standard meter rates. This would give more entrepreneurial food trucks more options while generating more revenue for the city.
As always, I encourage interested stakeholders to get informed and then make your voice heard. (It is better in that order.) We’ve created a webpage called Proposed Changes to the Itinerant Vendors, Peddlers and Solicitors Ordinance, where you can view the current ordinance, proposed changes in their entirety, Food Truck Freedom and comment on the legislation. Additionally, the Committee on Public Works, Facilities, Transportation and Accessibility is publicly hearing the matter on Tuesdays, October 30th and November 13th at 3:00pm in the Metro Council Chambers, 601 W. Jefferson St. The online comment period ends at 5:00pm on Friday, November 16th. There will still be food trucks in 2025.
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We had a great time collecting ideas for Our Money, Our Voice (our participatory budgeting project) last Sunday at CycLOUvia (following a similar recent pop-up at the Garvin Gate Blues Festival, in Old Louisville). Check out this short, two-minute video courtesy of MetroTV, and don’t forget to submit your idea(s) online before the November 2nd deadline for a chance to spend $75,000 - $100,000 in your neighborhood or wherever you think District 8 needs it most.
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