A month after Pensacola’s city council punted yet again on a proposed food truck ordinance, Mayor Ashton Hayward announced today he would invite trucks to park at City Hall beginning next month.
Hayward said on social media that food trucks would be welcomed at City Hall’s Main Street parking lot on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays beginning on January 7. The mayor’s office has partnered with Pensacola Cooks Kitchen — the same group which has helped organize food truck rallies in Warrington — on the initiative, said spokesperson Vernon Stewart.
“The mayor, as we know, is very supportive in getting food trucks downtown,” said Stewart. “Opening up the City Hall parking lot to food trucks under his authority is a gesture of good faith on his support for food truck owners and supporters. This was an idea brought up in conversation with City Administrator Eric Olson on how we at City Hall can help facilitate this effort.”
The move comes after more than two years of city council debate on potential food trucks legislation. The council adopted an ordinance in October, but voted it down on second reading last month after fierce objections from downtown restaurant owners. In the absence of regulations, food trucks are completely legal right now in Pensacola — but many food truck owners are hesitant to operate in the city’s uncertain climate.
Hayward’s announcement was embraced by area food truck owners and advocates. “First and foremost I would like to thank Mayor Hayward,” said George Makris, owner of the Hip Pocket Deli food truck. “It’s been a long road and it’s nice to finally see some progress. I think the city will see that we can work along side restaurants without harming their businesses and maybe then we will adopt an ordinance and be a part of the downtown family!”
“I’m glad to see the mayor and city hall doing something to support food trucks after the failure of the food truck ordinance,” said Nomadic Eats truck owner Randy Rusell. “I think there are a lot of scheduling and details to be worked out before me and some other food trucks will participate, but if all the details come together, Nomadic Eats would be honored to make an appearance, and show good faith to the City for moving forward and being progressive with food trucks.”
It’s unclear when — if at all — the city council may take up the food truck issue again. At the council’s meeting last week, Councilman Gerald Wingate asked council members to hold yet another workshop on the issue but was voted down. “I don’t think a workshop is going to do any good,” said Councilman Andy Terhaar. “I think we’ve heard everything, from every person, what they want and what they don’t want, so I’d like to see it come back to council for a vote. If it gets done, great, if it doesn’t, we just move on.”