City encouraged

Food trucks might get more space to operate

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The city of Columbus is reviewing a proposal that could help foster a better working relationship between the local food truck and restaurant industries.

The Central Ohio Food Truck Association and Central Ohio Restaurant Association have drafted a covenant that would allow mobile vendors to operate in the rights of way of brick-and-mortar establishments, providing certain provisions are met.

For example, food trucks looking to operate in a congested area with multiple retail brick-and-mortar businesses, including restaurants, would enter into a good-neighbor agreement with 80 percent of such neighboring businesses within a 125-foot radius. For food trucks selling "like kind" products, such as sushi in front of a sushi restaurant, approval of 100 percent of businesses in that area would be required.

The two sides sent the agreement to the city for guidance, said Amanda Ford, assistant director of public safety. A meeting has been set for Monday, Oct. 7, with Councilwoman Michelle Mills.

"There were some good suggestions in there," Ford said. "We just have to figure out how to move forward."

Brian Reed, owner of Mojo TaGo and president of the food-truck association, said although discussions are in the early stages, the proposal is a good launching point.

"We haven't necessarily figured out all the details," Reed said. "We're off to a good start. I think it's a positive thing."

The city's hands are somewhat tied, Ford said, because good-neighbor agreements aren't binding, so Columbus City Council must formally adopt any amendments. And some things, such as the good-neighborhood agreements, can't be codified.

She said some provisions, such as food trucks providing their own trash receptacles and cleaning up any trash within a 100-foot radius, just make good business sense.

Yet, it appears purveyors and the city will reach an impasse over parking. The pilot program insists that food trucks park in their own customized spaces -- 16 in all -- and not take up two or more parking meters, which is illegal.

Food-truck owners believe they should be able to use up to two spaces for four hours at a time, purchased in blocks of three to six months.

"The hardest part is finding locations where we can accommodate vehicles that size," Ford said. "I think that's the hardest thing to sell to the public: 'You can't do this but food trucks can do this.' "

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