Roadblocks & Food Trucks

The city doesn’t have a very efficient process to get these trucks licensed and built so that they can pass the licensing process. It could take months, months, months and years to get licenses. I’ve had people say that no matter how hard they tried, they’ve never been able to get a license. They just can’t get a clear read on what they need to build. That you have to go to city hall every week and that you bring all this paperwork, all this paperwork and they will say, “Oh no, this is not what you need, you need something else.” And every week, I mean… it was going on for a while. I can’t imagine the frustration that they must feel when they follow the law, exactly to its specifications, and then are denied for a reason that seems to come out of absolutely thin air. To me it really was, it was going through hell. It was just, you know, going through hell… and there was no way back for me. I already make a huge investment. If you do know somebody within city hall or within the business affairs that can help expedite your licensing process, it helps. But unfortunately, if you don’t have any of those connections, you get kind of caught up in all the red tape and paperwork. Many of the restrictions that are placed on trucks are strictly anti-competitive. We have restaurant next to restaurant, next to restaurant, but a food truck serving food now can’t compete with those restaurants? Imagine if the city passed a law that said a restaurant couldn’t open within 200 feet of another restaurant. I would say one of the dirty little secrets about licensing laws is that consumers rarely, if ever, want them. It’s existing industry insiders who lobby for these laws. And they do it because it’s a way of protecting their turf, and keeping competitors out. This ordinance was written by a lobbying group for the brick and mortar restaurants. They were in the room when it was written, they lobbied very hard, they testified. And in fact, there are members of city council who own restaurants themselves, and were not eager to open up the law to food trucks. It’s about how much power, and how much influence you have in the city that gets you anywhere. So somebody that’s just a small entrepreneur, that doesn’t have connections or the money, may not get very far. Ultimately, consumers are the ones who are hurt by that, because they end up paying higher prices and having fewer options. I, as a consumer, should be able to choose where I spend my money come lunchtime. If a food truck or a restaurant goes out of business, it should be because their food wasn’t good, not because the city decided where they got to serve their food. You know, capitalism is about the best product wins, the best service wins… I’m having the Caprese sandwich. Me too! If you can have two sandwich shops next to each other, one of them’s going to do better than the other- and that’s the way it works. And the same thing happens when there’s a food truck versus a brick and mortar.

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