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Arlington Reconsiders Food Truck Hours

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Every day, right around noon, the streets surrounding the Rosslyn Metro station are packed with food trucks. This is where the lunchtime crowd can find everything from burgers to baba ghanoush.

County leaders are looking at ways to allow vendors to stay longer than two hours and later than 8 p.m.

"We need more places to go," says Chong Lee, who sells kimchi tacos out of a green truck called Lime Tree.

But Arlington Chamber of Commerce president Rich Dowd says restaurant owners have concerns about expanding where the trucks can park.

"I think the underlying problem is that there's not a level playing field," he says. "In a normal brick-and-mortar operation they have fairly heavy expenses, especially in Arlington."

"Well that's not fair because we pay state tax, but they don't like competition so what can we do?" says Sabri Uzun, who sells crepes at Crandal Mackey Park.

Last month, the Arlington County Board doubled the time food trucks are able to park from one hour to two hours. Customer Alioni Dameron says she's relieved about that.

"Because, you know, sometimes you are in the mood at 12:30 and sometimes at 1:30, and then they're gone, so you are stuck with the usual corporate choices," says Dameron.

Even so, that means that Kafta Mania owner Pascal Halabi is forced to shut down shortly after 1 p.m., even though the streets are still packed with hungry customers.

"How am I supposed to tell customers if they are waiting in line to get food after two hours that I need to shut my window," he says. "Would you tell a brick-and-mortar to close in two hours so they can't serve anyone else?"

But that's exactly what he does, shutting the window and pulling out of his parking spot, hoping to set up somewhere else tomorrow.

D.C. is similarly considering new rules and regulations for the city's food trucks, and last week the D.C. Council from food truck operators and brick-and-mortar restaurants on how best to regulate the mobile vendors. The food trucks have warned that if a current slate of rules goes into effect, they may decamp for Virginia or go out of business altogether.

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