The Pensacola City Council has been talking about food trucks for more than three years. Twice now the council has almost adopted a food trucks ordinance, passing it on a first reading before capitulating to downtown special interests on a second, most recently in February.
In most cities in America, food trucks simply get a permit, park on the street, and begin feeding hungry customers. That’s what some local food truck operators want to do in Pensacola, but some business owners have lobbied against allowing the trucks on downtown streets, insisting that any ordinance include a “buffer zone” to “protect” brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Now, city council president Charles Bare is bringing the issue back yet again, proposing a new ordinance that would allow food trucks on public and private property (with a $250 annual permit), but prohibit them from operating in the right-of-way except during special events.
In a memorandum to city council members, Bare said his ordinance would “provide an entry point to food truck regulation in our city while alleviating concerns brought up in previous debates.”
With the city council gridlocked on the issue, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward and others have taken steps to encourage Pensacola’s growing food truck community. In January, Hayward invited food trucks to operate at City Hall, prompting a rotation of trucks to set up throughout the week. Just this week, the Nomadic Eats food truck announced it would move its regular lunch spot to City Hall, becoming the first truck to operate downtown five days a week. Habitat for Humanity’s Hot Wheels Food Truck Festival, held last month at Plaza de Luna, also attracted large crowds.
While many food truck owners and supporters want trucks to be allowed on city streets, some say Bare’s proposal is a good first step. “I support the idea,” said Randy Russell, owner of the Nomadic Eats truck. “Just having access to City Hall and an assortment of parks throughout Pensacola gives food trucks lots of opportunity. I think it’s a great start, and big step in the right direction.”