Food trucks show up, refuse to serve to make a point

WASHINGTON – Food truck operators hope hungry tummies translate into support for their cause.

At least 17 vendors surrounded Farragut Square on Monday, but instead of feeding customers, they offered a taste of what could lie ahead.

The so-called “Day without a Food Truck” was designed to illustrate how proposed regulations could limit vendors and shift the food scene away from mobile trucks.

D.C. leaders could face indigestion this week when they take up proposed regulations that would limit the number of food trucks in the city.

The issue will be on the council’s plate during a public hearing Thursday. Food truck owners will be in attendance to voice their fears that the new regulations, if approved, could put them out of business.

“I don’t know what to do,” said one food truck operator at Farragut Square. “I spent a lot of money for doing this — $40,000.”

“I think (the proposed rules) are very biased. It’s all backed by the Restaurant Association of D.C. and it’s rather unfair,” said Chef Driven D.C. owner Jerry Trice. “If a few food trucks scare (restaurant owners), make your food better. You know, lower your prices. Get in the game.”

Food truck owner Pascal Halabi of Kafta Mania says he doesn’t see the need for revised rules.

“I mean, it’s working fine,” he says through the window from inside his truck on 17th Street N.W. “We’re generating jobs. We’re helping the economy. I just don’t see the reason behind trying to shut down small businesses in D.C.”

In a statement, RAMW says it’s not out to get food trucks.

“Our hope for the passage of these regulations does not stem from a plan to thwart the competitive power of the new kids on the block. Indeed, it would be foolish to enter the food service industry without a desire to compete and differentiate. As representatives of Metropolitan Washington area dining establishments, we fully realize the high costs associated with starting a restaurant and we commend our friends in food trucks who have economized their operations and elevated the dining experience for those living and working in Washington, D.C.

Our goal then is not to diminish the importance of small businesses which contribute to the vibrancy of city life but to ensure that a more formal system of oversight is established and applied towards a segment of D.C.’s food service industry that has for years operated without having to give much thought to the public space it uses to generate private gains.”

A spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray says the new rules would help maintain a balanced playing field and protect access to public space.

Specifics about the proposed regulations, and public comments already received, can be found online.

Andrew Mollenbeck contributed to this report.

Follow @MollenbeckWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

The headline of this story has been modified.