For the second time in four months, the Pensacola City Council has adopted a food truck ordinance.
The council voted 6-2 on Thursday to adopt the ordinance introduced by councilman Gerald Wingate, itself a modified version of the ordinance the city council passed on first reading back in October. The October ordinance was voted down on its second reading a month later. Council president Charles Bare and councilman Brian Spencer voted against Thursday’s ordinance.
The latest ordinance would prohibit food trucks on South Palafox Street — as well as within 200 feet of the main entrance of any restaurant — but won’t take effect unless adopted on a second reading next month.
George Makris, owner of the Hip Pocket Deli food truck, said he was happy to see the issue move forward, calling it “long overdue.” However, Makris feels the 200 foot buffer is unconstitutional.
“I don’t understand why we can’t work alongside brick and mortar,” said Makris. “I’m for rules and regulations but let’s be fair. Competition breeds good business. It will draw more of a crowd for everyone and give people a variety of options.”
Food truck owner Randy Russell also takes issue with the buffer. “I think it’s a bit uncalled for and unnecessary,” said Russell. “The whole reason for it is to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants from competition, which I personally think goes against a free market economy and capitalism.”
Before the council settled on Wingate’s ordinance, council president Charles Bare offered an amendment which would have prevented food trucks on public streets altogether, allowing them only on private property. The amendment wasn’t well received by Bare’s fellow council members.
“Councilman Bare, your amendment is not giving us anything,” said councilwoman Sherri Myers. “We can already have food trucks on private property. So, I mean … thanks for nothing.”
Spencer argued that Bare’s amendment would stop food trucks from parking in front of homes in residential areas, which he called one of his “biggest concerns.” Councilman Larry B. Johnson called the notion a scare tactic. “I cannot imagine a food truck pulling up on a residential street and setting up to do business where there’s not traffic,” said Johnson. “To use that as a reason not to move this ordinance forward, I believe is absurd.”
Spencer was the only other council member to support Bare’s amendment as it failed on a 2-6 vote.
The new ordinance came after the successful debut last week of food trucks at Pensacola City Hall and the Azalea Cocktail Lounge, owned by councilman Larry B. Johnson. Reception to food trucks at City Hall has been so strong that Mayor Ashton Hayward’s office is planning to add trucks on Wednesdays beginning in February, in addition to the Thursday through Saturday shifts already in place.
Thursday night’s vote marked the latest milestone in three years of debate on the issue, during which time the city council has debated food trucks in more than a dozen different meetings and workshops. The latest ordinance would also bar food trucks from operating within 1,000 feet of a school while the school is in session, as well as prohibit trucks from parking in the same place for longer than five hours.