Food trucks operating in some of the busiest areas of Columbus will become part of a seven-month pilot program aimed at establishing new rules for the mobile vendors.
The program, which begins June 1, will be in effect in the Short North, Park Street, Arena District, Clintonville, Harrison West, University District, Near East Side and several points throughout downtown.
Right now, the 150 or so food trucks that move about the city are unregulated, unless they are part of special events, said Amanda Ford, assistant director of public safety.
"What we're trying to do with the legislation is help regulate them, but also give them a place to legally sell from the street," Ford said.
Those who operate on private property in those areas will not be affected, she said.
To participate, food-truck vendors must complete an inspection process through the Columbus Department of Public Safety's licensing section and the Columbus Division of Fire. The inspections will be done for free and vendors will not be charged for the temporary license.
However, the owner of the vehicle will be required to obtain a $150 commercial sales license, get a background check for employees and show proof of insurance.
Vendors must carry a 30-gallon trash receptacle and will be prohibited from selling between 3 and 6 a.m.
Designated metered parking spots will be created to accommodate oversized vehicles, which can't be longer than 25 feet.
Those spots will not be held for the food trucks; they'll be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The program will not affect push carts, which already are regulated, but will be allowed to participate in the designated areas, Ford said.
It is unclear how many vendors will sign up for the program, she said.
During the length of the pilot program, which ends Dec. 31, the city will gather information from vendors, residents and nearby businesses to help craft legislation, Ford said.
"We need to make sure they're putting these trucks together properly," Ford said. "When you sell from the public right of way, we want to make sure they're safe."
Neil Hertenstein, owner of the Hungry Monkey food truck, which operates in many urban areas of the city, said he plans to sign up for the pilot program.
He said additional guidelines will actually help the local food-truck business.
"I think any industry with this kind of growth is going to need regulations to make sure it's fair for everybody," said Hertenstein, who's also a partner in Junio's Tacos, another area food truck.