A city council committee is mulling over a new set of rules to relax restrictions on food trucks and change the way push carts operate in downtown.
Food trucks are currently not allowed in what the city calls the downtown overlay district, which includes downtown and the Glenwood South district. Councilors are working with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance to come up with a way to allow food trucks in downtown. Food trucks can get up to three special event permits per year, but they can’t just set up on a regular spot to serve lunch or the crowds that swarm some areas after the bars let out.
One possible solution on the table is to designate areas where the trucks can set up on private or city property, but councilors on the Law and Public Safety Committee seem to agree that they shouldn’t be allowed to take up a parking space and sell on the street.
Changes on the horizon for push carts are a bit different. Push carts, such as hotdog stands, have been allowed in the downtown area for a while and require a special permit. But once a vendor gets the $60 permit to reserve a spot they can renew that permit indefinitely.
Vendors can also buy as many permits as they want, no matter how many carts they actually have. Robert Pierce, with the inspections department, said one vendor had five carts and 21 permits.
“People buy up permits just to keep the competition away,” said Pierce.
Councilors on the committee seemed to agree that any new rules should cap the number of permits a vendor can buy. The one disagreement that surfaced during their meeting this week was whether or not to raise the fee for the permit and by how much.
Pierce told councilors that it costs the inspections department about $215 to approve the permit. He also said that he did an informal survey of 22 municipalities around the country and found that they average $206 per annual permit.
On the three-member committee, Eugene Weeks (District C) and Chair Mary Ann Baldwin (at-large) said they supported raising the fee. The third member, District B’s John Odom, said he wanted to keep the fee at $60 a year.
Odom said, “I want to support entrepreneurs, I don’t think we should increase their costs.” He continued, “It’s those little costs that add up.”
New rules for push-cart vendors could make their way to approval by the end of the year. The food truck regulations will likely take a little longer but could go back to the full council early next year.