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Food Truck Fight Reaches D.C. Council

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Food trucks claim new rules proposed by D.C. would drive them out of the city's most profitable locations.
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Food trucks claim new rules proposed by D.C. would drive them out of the city's most profitable locations.

Korean barbecue. Cuban sandwiches. Vietnamese pho. Salvadoran pupusas. Lobster rolls. Even cupcakes.

That's just a sample of the fare that could be had from some of the District's food trucks. But according to food truck vendors, if a new set of rules and regulations proposed by Mayor Vincent Gray take effect, office workers will go wanting as food trucks are driven out of the city's most profitable and central locations.

Today the D.C. Council will wade into the teeming regulatory battle, hearing testimony from both food trucks and traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants on the issue. The regulations proposed by Gray would formalize where and when food truck can vend, offering them more certainty as to where they can park and how long they can remain.

For restaurants, the rules are a matter of fairness—currently, food trucks operate with fewer restrictions that their traditional counterparts. But for food truck owners, the rules—which establish specific vending zones and dole out spots by lottery—are too vague and leave too much discretion to government agencies. The food trucks started a social media campaign in opposition, while the restaurant lobby has pushed back with its own letter to council members.

In response to that criticism, today D.C. officials will unveil a map with 150 locations where the moveable feast can stay put. Popular squares such as Franklin Square and Farragut Square will get over a dozen spots a piece, and so will Union Station. All those locations aren't written into Gray's proposed rules, though, leaving food truck owners nervous that they could be cut down after the fact.

Today's hearing, though, could turn into a food fight as all sides battle for a bigger slice of the food business pie. The council has until June 22 to either vote up or down on the regulations; if they choose to take no action, they will go into effect at that point.

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