Councilman Andy Terhaar has proposed an ordinance that would ban food trucks from the heart of downtown Pensacola. Instead of letting the free market decide whether it wants them, he has decided that restaurants should be given the exclusive right to downtown dining.
The proposed ordinance bans food trucks from operating on Palafox south of Cervantes and within one block in either direction, i.e. Baylen and Jefferson streets. It would also prohibit the trucks from operating within 500 feet of any brick-and-mortar restaurant without that business owner’s written permission.
The Independent News believes that such an ordinance would be a mistake. No media has been more supportive of local restaurants than this newspaper, but we believe the Terhaar ordinance is overly restrictive and unnecessary in a free market economy.
When we did our research in August for our cover story on food trucks (Independent News, “Eat Street,” Aug. 22, 2013), we found that food trucks were part of the dining landscape for some of the most vibrant cities in the country—Austin, New Orleans, San Francisco and Chicago. In Tampa, the local community—and even the mayor himself—have shown visible support with a monthly event titled “The Mayor’s Food Truck Fiesta.”
In the Big Easy, the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition provides an online hub, nolafoodtrucks.com, serving as the ultimate guide to street food in New Orleans. The website keeps the community up to date on rallies and other events, and acts as a resource center for those looking to get started in the industry with a truck of their own.
We found that the food trucks are incubators for up-and-coming chefs. These chefs may not be able to afford to build, rent or staff a restaurant, but they can test their recipes and build a loyal clientele that may one day help them do so.
Food trucks can work. They offer a completely different dining experience than a restaurant, but they only survive if they offer good food and something different from what customers can find elsewhere.
We don’t have to “recreate the wheel” in how we govern food trucks. Other cities have regulations that let restaurants and food trucks peacefully coexist. An outright ban is taking a meat cleaver to the issue rather than using a surgical knife to properly carve how the two types of eateries can complement each other in downtown Pensacola.
This ordinance is a step backwards and out of step with the rest of the nation.