Mobile Vendors Get Mobilized to Combat Food Truck Laws

Do you know why you never see trucks with hot food downtown? It's because a City of Houston ordinance prohibits trucks with propane tanks from being in that area. The same goes for why there is no seating around food trucks, and really, who wants to eat standing up?

Because of these and other strange ordinances, food truck owners have banded together to form Mobile Food Unit Houston, or M.F.U. Houston for short. (Thank goodness there's an "M" in front of that.) The newly formed organization seeks to change some of the regulations that are hampering their ability to freely conduct business. A Web site has been set up at http://www.mfuhouston.com, and a press release was sent out yesterday.

The movement actually started more than two years ago as Save Our Food Trucks (see "These Men Want to Save You a Taco (Truck)" by Katharine Shilcutt from November 19, 2010).

So why the sudden activity now after being so quiet all this time?

"It's been building behind the scenes," says J.R. Cohen, founder of SLGT (Support Local Grow Together), an initiative for businesses and consumers to support and purchase local business services and products. "We've been doing a lot of due diligence." J.R. is helping the group as a volunteer with strategy, communication and public relations. "It's an all-volunteer movement," he said. "There's no money involved here."

Cohen says that he's been passionate about food trucks and carts his whole life and that this initiative is about supporting entrepreneurs. "People come to this country and need to be able to survive. Sometimes all they have are their grandmother's recipes, and cooking food is what they use to start a business and make money. We need to support that."

Specifically, the group seeks to:

  • Eliminate the requirement that there be a 60-foot distance between trucks
  • Only be required to get one liquid propane (LP) permit for multiple locations
  • Be able to park next to existing seating
  • Be able to provide limited seating of their own, up to three tables and six chairs
  • Be allowed to do business in the "District of Limitations 1," a.k.a. downtown, which requires removal of the propane restriction

Does Cohen really think that the group has a chance of getting the regulations lifted? "I'm an optimistic person," he said. "I think we have a very good chance of getting the majority of these changed. It's really important that people support this, and them signing the petition greatly helps our chances."

The group will be presenting their recommendations for changes to the relevant ordinances in front of City Council on September 26, and an Awareness Event is planned for September 23 from 4 to 10 p.m. The location for that event will be announced later this month, but it's a sucker bet that it will be at City Hall.

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