Arlington cracking down on food truck regulations

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Photo - Food carts in Arlington (Taylor Holland/Examiner photo)
Food carts in Arlington (Taylor Holland/Examiner photo)
Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

Some food truck vendors are moving out of Arlington County after what they say has been a spike in police enforcement of laws that make running their businesses extremely difficult.

In recent weeks, police have issued a number of citations to food truck vendors who are parked on the side of the road and serving food for longer than the county's 60-minute limit.

Though the rule is not new, Leland Atkinson, who operates the Sinplicity Ice Cream food truck, said he's never seen police enforce a time limit on food trucks in the year he's been in business.

Immediately after he received a loitering ticket while serving in Rosslyn, Atkinson said, "It became very obvious that there was no way we could beat this," and he decided to operate in only the District.

Doug Maheu, who operates the Doug the Food Dude food truck, said he thinks the increased enforcement has to do with complaints from restaurants.

"I'm guessing they may be trying to squash their competition," he said.

Lynne Breaux, president of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, which represents many Arlington County restaurants, said she has heard county restaurant owners complaining about the trucks. But she added that it's the "police's duty to enforce" the rules.

What's most difficult for the food truck vendors is that their one-hour limit is up by the time they're able to successfully park, heat their grills and get the operation in order, Maheu said.

The trucks must then "shut down and move with customers in line," Maheu said, or face action from the Arlington County Police Department.

"We need a minimum of three hours to be able to successfully operate," he said.

Despite the recent uproar from vendors, police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said the county has been enforcing the code for "quite a bit" of time and says some of the food trucks "just haven't set up shop in Arlington" before.

Police typically issue warnings to vendors in violation of the code initially to make them "well aware" of county regulations, Sternbeck said.

And while some vendors continue to move out of Arlington to avoid county restrictions, others, such as Osiris Hoil, owner of District Taco, said they plan to use food carts because those are not affected by the ordinance.

Hoil's District Taco stand, a trailer that sits on a Rosslyn sidewalk, and other stationary vendors around it are permitted to vend from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"At first, we had a small budget and couldn't afford a food truck," Hoil said. "But now, with this problem, we have no plans to get one. This rule is not fair. ... It doesn't make any sense."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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Taylor Holland

Staff writer
The Washington Examiner