Food trucks might get wider range in Philly

 Cupcake Carnivalehas been in business for three years and often parks by Broad & SpringGarden streets in Philadelphia (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Cupcake Carnivalehas been in business for three years and often parks by Broad & SpringGarden streets in Philadelphia (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Food trucks across Philadelphia may soon be able to legally venture beyond the city’s curbs.

Under current law, food trucks are regulated in the same category as “peddlers,” “hucksters,” and “transient vendors.” As a result, the roving purveyors of artisan cuisine are not technically allowed to set up shop on private property, even if the owner invites them.

“Legally, if they were on a private property, they could get cited for having their vending operation not on a street,” said Councilman Mark Squilla, who is sponsoring legislation to change that.

His proposal will create a whole new legal category for food trucks — mobile food vendors — and allow them to apply for annual permits to sell their goods in parking lots and elsewhere.

The permitting process will have to stay intact, Squilla said, in order to avoid bitter turf wars.

“You can’t just go drive into Love Park and say, ‘You don’t need a permit, just go in there,’ because it would be total chaos,” Squilla said. “You would have 10 vendors vying for an area that may only fit two trucks.”

Pastry chef Jeffrey Jimenez, who has owned and operated the Cupcake Carnivale food truck for three years, has permits for five locations in the city. Having more parking options would be a boon for business, he said.

“I would be really happy, and I’m pretty sure a lot of the other food trucks would be really excited about that, too,” Jimenez said. “This is definitely a breakthrough for food trucks in Philadelphia.”

Squilla admitted some food trucks already operate in this fashion, but the measure would officially legalize the practice.

The measure does set forth some restrictions. For instance, food trucks can’t park on sites registered as historic places. They also can’t interfere with roadway visibility. Having any amplified sound isn’t allowed.

Squilla’s proposals, awaiting a committee hearing, will not likely come before the full Council for an initial vote until the end of March.

Other bills regulating food trucks will be introduced soon, Squilla said. Among them, restrictions on how close to an open restaurant one can operate. It’s seen as a concession to brick-and-mortar restaurants, some of which have complained about food trucks siphoning customers.

Another bill will attempt to clarify which streets are completely banned from food trucks and which are not. There’s now a broad swath of streets that fall under a restricted area. Squilla said those prohibitions need to be reconsidered.

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