No one ever said updating Houston’s food truck ordinances would be easy.
On Tuesday, more than 50 mobile food truck owners and supporters showed up at a council committee hearing to push for changes to the city’s mobile food unit ordinance, saying it would promote economic growth and improve vitality downtown.
“The way the ordinance is right now, it inhibits our growth and our survival,” said food truck vendor Joe Phillip, a representative of Mobile Food Unit Houston Collaborative. “It limits where and how we can sell. Other states and cities have vibrant food truck communities.”
The proposal would lift a ban on mobile food trucks with propane stoves or grills operating in downtown, eliminate the mandatory 60 feet of spacing between each truck, and enable truck vendors to provide seating.
Several council members expressed concern about propane use in the downtown area and the impact mobile food trucks would have on existing restaurants.
Councilman Andrew Burks Jr. opposed the changes, saying he said he has a problem with having multiple trucks lined up along downtown streets, a unsightly scene he has witnessed in other big cities.
Downtown parking is limited, and the close proximity of several trucks could be unsafe, he said.
“There is a danger here,” Burks said. “I don’t like this idea.”
Members of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, however, see the changes as a move toward deregulation of the food truck industry.
“Very few people in our industry, especially those who are members in our association, see this as something that’s going to really impact business downtown on a positive level,” said association past president Michael Shine.
“They see it, theoretically, as just splitting up a small pie. Members of the association don’t want this happening.”
See here for the background. I don’t believe the downtown food service business is zero-sum – if it were, I’d expect the GHRA to oppose the opening of any new brick-and-mortar eatery downtown as well, on the same grounds – but I do believe that opposition from groups like the GHRA is the main obstacle to be overcome. Ultimately, what’s going to matter is what Mayor Parker thinks about this, and she’s still in wait-and-see mode right now. If you feel strongly about this issue, now would be a good time to let the Mayor and your Council members know.