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City Council Set to Vote Today on Mayor's Food Truck Ordinance

Food Truck Roundup.
Food Truck Roundup.
Photo: Eater NOLA flickr pool/Paul Broussard

Gird your loins, because the long-simmering food truck debate?will food trucks only be able to exist in a phantom zone radius of 200 feet from restaurants? will they need to provide hall passes for patrons to use nearby restrooms? will they be able to operate for more than a hot second before packing up their wares and trundling to the next spot??may finally come to an end this afternoon. Or the New Orleans City Council could just cross its arms and sternly shake its head, in which case we'll no doubt still be talking about this in October. To the foodmobile, patient readers!

According to the Times-Pic's embedded food truck reporter (not really, but that sounds like a great gig) Bruce Eggler, the city council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance proposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration. You'll remember that this new ordinance was intended to supplant the original April ordinance that the council passed, but that the mayor vetoed early in May. But wait, you might be asking yourself, why, with a perfectly fine (albeit slightly disappointing) ordinance in front of him, would the mayor veto it, thus plunging the city council into yet another faux-pas filled food truck debate?

Well, according to Eggler,

Landrieu said he vetoed it [the ordinance] because it was still too restrictive?specifically that it would have created a 200-foot "buffer zone" around brick-and-mortar restaurants where food trucks could not operate. The current law, in effect for many decades, provides for a 600-foot protected zone.

The buffer zone has become the main bone of contention, with Head having earlier suggested that such a proximity restriction might actually be "unconstitutional." In the original ordinance that oozed through the city council, Head agreed to accept the 200-foot buffer zone along with some other less-than-palatable provisions in an effort to pass the ordinance, but the new version up for a vote this afternoon has dispensed with those compromises.

That's why the new ordinance, which would be even better news for food truck operators than its predecessor, might not make it past city council sentries Jackie Clarkson and Susan Guidry. Clarkson and Guidry have made it clear that they want at least some sort of buffer zone in order to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants from competition with their low-overhead, mobile competitors. Food truckers, however, argue that such competition is nonexistent?food trucks and restaurants, so this logic goes, offer entirely different experiences, complementing each other and increasing foot traffic, which means more business for everyone.

Stan Harris, president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, disagrees, of course, contending that the proximity restrictions are probably constitutional and, moreover, necessary. Meanwhile, Eric Granderson, a top Landrieu aide, has said that a buffer-zone provision probably will not withstand a legal challenge, so the mayor will almost certainly veto any ordinance that contains such a provision.

You get the gist?the battle lines have been drawn and it'll be up to someone in the city council to compromise if New Orleans food trucks are ever going to get out of gear.

· Landrieu administration's food-truck ordinance set for City Council vote Thursday []
· All Food Truck Coverage [-ENOLA-]