Today is November 6, 2010.
How does time go so quickly? I have had the most incredible 6 months with this little pink truck and her crew of 3 (plus me). It took a few months for it to settle in that the work was real and not ending any time soon. I have to say this has been the most amazing and also the hardest work I have ever done. Weekly people call or write to ask if I will share with them my experience of how to open and run a food truck in Boulder, and I think to myself…. “Oh my God! They have no idea what they are getting themselves into.” But then, neither did I.
We continue to work closely with the City of Boulder and are waiting patiently for new ordinances to be passed and laws approved. In the mean time, we are still not allowed (as far as we know) to post up anywhere close to downtown (short of private property, we think, but it’s still too scary to risk it.) People ask us on the regular why, and I wish I had a different answer. There are so many ways that we could be a part of downtown culture without encroaching on brick and mortar businesses. And yet there seems to be a huge fear that once this can of worms is opened, it will be unstoppable. My response to that is this: it is imperative that ordinances and regulations be created sooner than later. The rest of the nation is very busy growing this new (sort of) and very urban concept in their downtown areas. So far the 2 food trucks/ trailers that I know of in this town that are actually above the board, paying taxes, leasing commissary spaces, creating jobs and making really good food are rolling around office parks and creatively seeking ways to be granted permission outside of that to feed people on the weekends or in the evenings somewhere. But where? And that raises the next question that we have been asked every single day for the last 3 weeks, “What happens when it gets cold?” We will sell tacos…. what else? But the very real and present concern is, will people come out in the cold? Time and again the response has been positive, but only time will tell. Amazingly, 50% of the people who come to the truck window drive to us: something completely antithetical to the concept of the food truck to begin with. We are so very grateful to every single person who does.
I know I have said that before. It bears repeating I guess. It blows my mind.
So, not that you asked, but you are reading this for some reason… here are my thoughts for how we could regulate the concept of mobile vending while still maintaining the integrity and support of brick and mortar establishments in this great and wonderful bubble of a city in which we live and which we so love.
1) Issue a set number of vending permits per year with in City limits and charge a fee both to apply and to attain the permit: much like cities/ states have done that regulate and limit liquor licenses. Once the permit is attained it becomes the permit holder’s property. The permits become assets therefore and when someone chooses to cease business or is shut down due to violations, these permits could be sold with a percentage of the revenue going back to the city and a percentage going to the existing permit holder. Restricting the number of permits will maintain a sense of integrity within the City limits of how many rolling operators are allowed in one area.
2) Each permit holder is required to maintain liability insurance (amount to be determined by The City) as well as auto insurance and all health department permits must be maintained at the highest safety level. If policies lapse or inspections find violations, the permit is suspended and penalties are enforced. At the most extreme end of the spectrum there would be a revocation of the permit entirely. Permits are not transferable unless approved by the City of Boulder.
3) Permit holders are allowed to stop for 4 hours (it is the same in Denver) at a time in one area unless the property is privately owned or a special event is being held with Special Event permits.
4) If permit holders wish to gather in one area at the same time (called a POD in other cities) it must be on private property with written permission from the property holder.
5) Permit holders must park at least 100 feet in any direction away from brick and mortar establishments serving food at the same hour. And at least 200 feet from brick and mortar establishments serving the same type of cuisine. (as an example, I am a taco truck and would never be allowed to park in front of the Rio or Centro.) Once the establishment has ceased food service (late night street service for example) permit holders may park on private commercial property with written approval from property owner.
6) Permit holders may not set up table or chairs if parked in Public Right of Way. If there is a private property opened up for the use of multiple food trucks to POD, then tables and chairs may be approved. Permit holders may not simply post up and feed meters in the Boulder Main Streets (BMS) area downtown or on the Hill for periods longer than 2 hours.
7) If parking on the BMS is permitted for these small periods of time, the permit holder must move their location after the 2 hour period by at least 4 city blocks.
8 ) Refuse containers must be provided and maintained by permit holders.
And certainly there is more that would be useful and even necessary to execute a new code for Mobile Vending. The Mobile Venders of today are applying for permits presently within City Limits and are being refused based on ordinances from the past, made in a time when the concept was nothing more than “roach coaches” or “grease trucks.” Mobile vending done well is an extremely community and urban based concept. There will be good food trucks and bad… just like there are good and bad restaurants. Given the opportunity, we will help each other be better. Surely, competition breeds quality.
Okay, I think I have said my peace.
Stay tuned, be well and eat more truck food.