Reversing course from a month ago, the Pensacola City Council tonight voted down proposed food truck rules, placing the issue’s future in limbo.
The same ordinance which passed last month by a 6-2 vote tonight failed to make it through a second and final reading, with only two of seven council members supporting the measure. Council members Larry B. Johnson and Charles Bare, who each authored food trucks ordinances which were largely merged last month, were the only Council members to support the ordinance tonight. Council members P.C. Wu, Andy Terhaar, Gerald Wingate, Brian Spencer, and Jewel Cannada-Wynn voted no, and Councilwoman Sherri Myers was absent for tonight’s meeting.
Tonight’s decision — or lack thereof — is the latest development in more than two years of debate on the food trucks issue.
A number of downtown business owners vocally opposed the ordinance, including Wilmer Mitchell of Seville Quarter. Mitchell said the ordinance “basically gives the city streets away” to food trucks. Mitchell’s son Buck warned that adopting the ordinance would open a “Pandora’s box” which could lead to mobile clothing boutiques, hair salons, and tattoo parlors.
Johnson said he supported the entrepreneurship of food truck operators. “I believe in the American dream,” said Johnson. “I believe in capitalism, I believe in the free market.”
At one point, Councilman P.C. Wu moved to amend the ordinance to include a 200-foot “buffer zone” limiting how close to brick-and-mortar restaurants that food trucks could park. Such a buffer had been proposed in a previous version of the food trucks ordinance recommended by the city’s planning board earlier this year, and several council members said they wanted to see it reinstated. However, Wu’s motion failed on 4-3 vote, coming one vote shy of the five necessary to pass.
The ordinance itself was voted down shortly thereafter.
It’s unclear what happens next. Though a number of council members suggested the ordinance needed further changes, the council didn’t discuss how or when those changes could take place. After the vote took place, Councilman Gerald Wingate could be heard asking, “Workshop?”
The ordinance’s sponsor, Councilman Larry B. Johnson, isn’t optimistic. “Tonight, government stepped up and told entrepreneurs that they are not welcome in Pensacola,” he said. “I am disappointed almost beyond words. We have a council that does not want to move forward. The food trucks issue is dead. We are not a progressive community.”
Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, who last week told The Pulse that “citizens want food trucks,” left the meeting prior to the ordinance being considered and did not speak on the issue tonight.