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  • This would be funny if it were not for real - AKA government regulations run amuck
    • Anonymous
      Posted May 9, 2012 1:23 PM

      Read it. At the end, if one truck has a permit, does that mean that the next has to be at least 200 feet away. And you need state permits, not ATL, to operate at EACH location for a food truck. They are all better off moving to another city because complying with the many and often conflicting regulations will sap every bit of profit from their operations. Just wait until the affordable care act takes effect...

      Atlanta Food Truck Park temporarily closed due to permit issues
      5:00 am May 9, 2012, by Jon Watson

      Last fall, the Atlanta food community won an important battle in the struggle to make our city a more business friendly environment for food trucks and mobile vendors. Kwanza Halls Food Truck Ordinance, passed with a 15-0 vote last September, significantly relaxed a few key vending regulations that had previously made successfully operating a food truck in Atlanta nearly impossible.

      However, eight months later, we are seeing that putting those new policies into practice still has its share of road blocks.

      Last Thursday, the Atlanta Police Department License and Permits unit arrived at the Atlanta Food Truck Park and began shutting down trucks left and right. The park on Howell Mill Road, the first permanent food truck park in Atlanta open 7 days a week, remains temporarily closed until enough of the vendors can clear up the permit issues with the APD.

      For the most part, news about the closing has been limited to references of permitting issues, without much detail as to what that means. I spoke with Howard Hsu yesterday, co-owner of the Atlanta Food Truck Park, to get a better understanding of what exactly is happening, and what is next for the Food Park. What follows is a very condensed summary of that conversation.

      To be perfectly clear, none of the permits in question have anything to do with food-safety violations. All of the vendors affected had business licenses and had passed health inspections. Also, the park itself is not in violation of any permits, just all of the vendors that populate it.

      The crux of the issue is the restriction or rather, enforcement of the number of locations allowed by a mobile vending permit. Until the passage of the Food Truck Ordinance, the City of Atlantas verbiage was singular location meaning that a food truck operator would have to re-apply for a new permit and re-pay the associated fees every time it moved locations. Section G of the new ordinance changed the City of Atlantas wording to allow for multiple locations as indicated on the vending permit.

      The other major change brought on by the ordinance was the reduction in permissible proximity to a brick-and-mortar business selling similar items from 1500 feet to 200 feet.

      However, the Food Truck Ordinance did not re-write every tangled link of compliance across the wide range of required permits, only the City of Atlanta codes. The wording still remains in the State of Georgias code that a mobile food service unit or an extended food service unit must restrict operation to a maximum of two (2) locations or areas stipulated by the permit. That would mean a re-application process and hundreds of dollars in fees every time a food truck wants to operate from any location that isnt one of the two on file with the State Health Department.

      Up until this point, the Atlanta Police Department hadnt enforced the two location restriction in the Georgia code as long as the vendor had valid city permits.

      So, technically, every one of the vendors at the park was required to have the Howell Mill Park as one of their two locations on file with the State Health Department. But it wasnt just one or two lazy owners whose permits were not up to date; every truck in the park was in violation.

      Hsu relayed the strong sense of frustration among the food truck operators with the process, as many of them had applied numerous times for the permits showing the Howell Mill address as a location, only to have their application delayed or denied for trivial reasons.

      But it wasnt until he explained the cause of the most recent delay in re-opening the park that I realized just how silly and frustrating this process can really be.

      On Monday, the Yumbii truck was the first of the recently ousted vendors to have the revised permit approved and was once again compliant to work out of the park. At that point, the APD ceased approving any of the other vendors applications because they felt they needed to confer with their legal team first.

      The issue? Once Yumbii received their mobile vending permit for the park, city officials are unsure if it now constitutes a stationary business, meaning that all of the other vendors applying to operate within 200 feet of Yumbii would have to be denied.

      This is starting to feel like the local government equivalent of the Whos on first? routine.

      Greg Smith of the Atlanta Street Food Coalition explained to me via email that Several departments in the city are meeting [Wednesday] to get their ducks in a row on all of this, and that he is confident that most of the issues at the Food Truck Park will be sorted out there. I plan to follow up with Smith later this week to discuss the results.

      So, the Food Truck Park will remain barren for at least another day or two, it seems. Lets just hope the policy makers and the enforcers on the ground can get onto the same page soon.

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