Keep Food Legal Files Comments in Support of Washington, DC Food Trucks

Yesterday Keep Food Legal filed comments in support of Washington, DC's food trucks. We filed these comments in response to a draconian proposal by District regulators to adopt new rules that could make the popular mobile food vendors a rarity in much of the city's downtown area.

The primary issue in this third cycle of proposed regulations in the District was not complaints about the trucks themselves but about their customers. District regulators--and a small segment of the brick-and-mortar restaurant lobby--apparently believe food trucks just have too many people waiting to buy their food. Keep Food Legal focused in part on this absurd argument against food trucks in our comments:

[U]nder the [District's] so-called “ice-cream truck” rule, DCRA has long mandated that the potential customers of a mobile food vendor form a line (or queue) before a food truck may stop and serve food. DCRA has also required that a truck must leave a parking space without delay after serving the last customer in a queue. Hence, existing DCRA regulations have been an important driver of queues in places like Farragut Square because they effectively prohibit any mobile food vendor from parking and vending unless they do so at a place with a high concentration of people standing in a line.

The proposed regulations... seem designed to punish mobile food vendors because these vendors have been mindful of DCRA regulations and vend only when and where they find large numbers of potential customers standing in line to buy their food products. It would be unjust for the District to penalize mobile food vendors for complying with an absurd regulation like the ice-cream truck rule just because compliance with that absurd rule has perhaps created a fresh set of unintended consequences.

Read our complete comments here.

Our Baylen Linnekin was quoted in the Daily Caller last week on the issue of DC food trucks and their customers. Read Linnekin's remarks here.

Read our earlier comments in support of DC food trucks here. And read more about our work on food truck issues around the country here.

Keep Food Legal Fights Alongside DC Food Trucks

Today Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin will testify before the DC Council in support of Washington, DC's vibrant food truck community. There's he'll join food truck entrepreneurs, litigators, fellow advocates, and members of the public to urge the council to reject proposed regulations that could prove a fatal blow to the District's food trucks--and harm consumers and the District's tax base in the process.

"The proposed regulations would restrict uses of public space that are good for District consumers and District coffers alike," says Linnekin, in a preview of his testimony. "They are arbitrary, unreasonable, and unfair."

"Keep Food Legal and its members and supporters urge the DC Council to reject the proposed food truck regulations," he says. "The rules would favor uses of public space by powerful, well-funded, politically connected, and entrenched businesses over the use of often entirely different space by smaller, less powerful entrepreneurs."

In an op-ed that appears in today's Washington Examiner (online), Linnekin writes that the proposed regulations are a draconian solution in search of a problem:

These proposed regulations would impose severe restrictions on where food trucks could park and sell food. The rules would assign some parking spots by random lottery, establish 500-foot exclusion zones around these lottery-designated spaces in which no other food truck could vend, and bar trucks from vending on any street with a sidewalk that is not at least 10-feet wide.

These arbitrary and punitive rules could kill off the District's vibrant food truck scene.

If you agree, take action at Save DC Food Trucks.

If you want to learn more, please read our many writings in opposition to regulations that would curtail food trucks--in DC and around the country--at our Publications page.

Keep Food Legal Takes to the Airwaves to Rip Proposed DC Soda Ban, Sin Tax

Last week Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin appeared on the evening newscasts of Washington, DC's ABC and Fox affiliates. Linnekin was critical of two proposals that would restrict access to soda and other sweetened beverages in the District under the guise of combating obesity.

One proposal, floated by DC council member Mary Cheh, would attach an excise tax to purchases of soda. Critics--including Linnekin--have long argued that data does not support such a tax. The other, suggested by two other council members, would be modeled after New York City's wrongheaded and illegal ban on subjectively "large" portion sizes.

In his two television appearances, Linnekin argued on behalf of Keep Food Legal and its member and supporters in the District that enactment of these proposals would serve as little more than a tax increase on low-income consumers (who drink soda at higher rates than do middle- and upper-income consumers) that would not improve anyone's health. Furthermore, since obesity rates have been rising even as soda consumption has fallen over the past decade, the claimed causal connection for these taxes and bans simply does not exist, a point Linnekin made in his remarks on ABC affiliate WJLA:

Baylen Linnekin of the group “Keep Food Legal” says the District shouldn’t legislate what people should and shouldn’t eat or drink.

“Consumption rates of sweet drinks have been going down for a decade and yet obesity has been going up. Soda isn’t the culprit,” says Linnekin.

His Fox 5 comments focused on the rights of consumers to make their own decisions.

"It all boils down to food freedom of choice. It's not up to government to tell us what we should eat and shouldn't eat."

Read more about Keep Food Legal's efforts to promote beverage freedom of choice here.

Keep Food Legal Submits Comments in Support of DC Food Trucks

Washigton, DC's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) has long considered proposed reforms to the District's regulations that govern food trucks. When DCRA recently issued proposed regulations, most supporters of food trucks were pleased with the content. But most also believed there were still a few pieces missing, and that some potentiall hurdles in the regulations should be removed.

When DCRA opened up the regulations to public comment, Keep Food Legal jumped at the opportunity to make sure our voice (and yours) was heard. Here is an exceprt from the comments we submitted before yesterday's comment deadline:

Keep Food Legal commends DCRA for proposing many regulations that would improve the climate for mobile food vendors and consumers in the District. Keep Food Legal, on behalf of our members and supporters, urges DCRA to ADOPT the proposed regulations insofar as they do not restrict mobile food vending. We support many of the elements of the current regulations and urge DCRA to also take the following additional steps:

1) DO NOT place any restrictions on mobile vendors based in any way on the items they serve. For example, the final regulations should not discriminate against food trucks that sell sweet (rather than savory or other) items.

2) DO NOT create the proposed Vending Development Zones that would no doubt be used to limit consumer access to food sold by mobile vendors.

3) DO NOT restrict operating hours for food trucks. Any regulations pertaining to hours of operation must apply equally to both food trucks and restaurants.

4) DO amend the proposed regulations to permit the sale of alcohol beverages from food trucks.

Because Keep Food Legal supports food choice--rather than particular food choices--we also urge DCRA to consider steps to alleviate the tremendous burden its regulations (and regulations enforced by other District agencies) place on brick-and-mortar restaurants.

You can read our complete response here. We also included by reference and link a 2011 Reason magazine article on DC food truck regulations written by executive director Baylen Linnekin. In case you haven't read that piece, you can do so here.

Keep Food Legal Submits Comments to DCRA; Supports Mobile Food Vending in Washington, DC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

COMMENTS OF KEEP FOOD LEGAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BAYLEN LINNEKIN TO THE DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER & REGULATORY AFFAIRS IN SUPPORT OF MOBILE FOOD VENDING

Keep Food Legal, on Behalf of Members and Supporters, Supports DCRA's Proposed Regulations Insofar as they Foster Positive Climate for Mobile Food Vending

Keep Food Legal's Baylen Linnekin Urges Amendments to Make Mobile Vending More Permissive

Says DCRA Should Lessen Regulatory Burden on Brick-And-Mortar Restaurants

 


To: Nicholas A. Majett, Director, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

From: Baylen J. Linnekin, Executive Director, Keep Food Legal

Re: Comments in Support of Washington, DC Mobile Food Vending & in Support of Proposed Regulations (with Amendments Suggested Herein)

Date: March 1, 2011


Thank you for accepting the comments of Keep Food Legal, a grassroots nonprofit incorporated in Washington, DC, on behalf of our members and supporters. Keep Food Legal is the first and only nationwide, nonprofit membership organization devoted to culinary freedom—the right of every American to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, cook, and eat the foods and beverages of their own choosing. Keep Food Legal members and supporters hail from across the United States and are key cogs in nearly every link in the food chain: farmers, ranchers, fishermen, hunters, manufacturers, grocers, restaurateurs, tavern owners, food truck owners and operators, chefs, consumers, foodies, activists, academics, and authors.

I am the founder and executive director of Keep Food Legal. I am a lawyer, earned an advanced degree in agricultural and food law, and have written and spoken extensively on food regulation, law, and policy in general. I have written and spoken on numerous occasions against regulations that restrict the right of mobile food vendors and their customers. I have presented my research on food regulation at Harvard University School of Law; Tulane University School of Law; Chapman University School of Law; Northeastern University School of Law; Suffolk University School of Law; Boston University; Pennsylvania State University; and elsewhere. I developed and will be teaching an undergraduate course on social media and food at American University in fall 2012. My writing on food regulation has appeared in the Chapman University Law Review, Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly (forthcoming), Northeastern University Law Journal (forthcoming), the Journal of Wine Economics, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food & Drink in America (forthcoming), and elsewhere.

Keep Food Legal commends DCRA for proposing many regulations that would improve the climate for mobile food vendors and consumers in the District. Keep Food Legal, on behalf of our members and supporters, urges DCRA to ADOPT the proposed regulations insofar as they do not restrict mobile food vending. We support many of the elements of the current regulations and urge DCRA to also take the following additional steps:

1) DO NOT place any restrictions on mobile vendors based in any way on the items they serve. For example, the final regulations should not discriminate against food trucks that sell sweet (rather than savory or other) items.

2) DO NOT create the proposed Vending Development Zones that would no doubt be used to limit consumer access to food sold by mobile vendors.

3) DO NOT restrict operating hours for food trucks. Any regulations pertaining to hours of operation must apply equally to both food trucks and restaurants.

4) DO amend the proposed regulations to permit the sale of alcohol beverages from food trucks.

Because Keep Food Legal supports food choice--rather than particular food choices--we also urge DCRA to consider steps to alleviate the tremendous burden its regulations (and regulations enforced by other District agencies) place on brick-and-mortar restaurants. As our executive director Baylen Linnekin wrote in a Reason magazine article on food trucks last year (an article that we incorporate into our comments by reference and link):

Clearly, Washington[, DC]’s restaurants could stand some serious deregulation. Short of that, there are more immediate reforms that could be adopted within the existing regulatory structure. One way to eliminate unconscionable regulatory delays like the one [Liberty Tree restaurant] faced would be for the D.C. government to implement a presumption of legality for launching a business. Under such a scenario, regulators could permit restaurants that have incorporated and passed a health inspection to open for business in the event of any government delay of more than a few business days. The District government would immediately begin earning sales and income taxes from the restaurant and its employees—rather than having to wait months or more—while restaurant owners and employees could begin working and benefiting themselves and the broader economy. And the city could still close a restaurant it found to be unsafe and could still demand that the restaurant fix any documented problems.

Instead of cracking down on the successful food trucks, D.C. should look to those businesses’ success as a reason to cut the red tape that engulfs entrepreneurs who want to launch brick-and-mortar restaurants.

For these and other reasons, Keep Food Legal and our members and supporters urge DCRA to ADOPT the proposed regulations insofar as they do not restrict mobile food vending and to amend the proposed regulations so that they 1) DO NOT place any restrictions on mobile vendors based in any way on the items they serve; 2) DO NOT adopt the proposed Vending Development Zones; 3) DO NOT restrict operating hours for food trucks; and 4) DO permit the sale of alcohol beverages from food trucks. Additionally we urge DCRA to consider steps to alleviate the tremendous burden the agency's regulations (and regulations enforced by other District agencies) place on brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Thank you for reviewing and considering the comments of Keep Food Legal and our members and supporters. I would be happy to speak further about my remarks at your request.

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Reason.tv Video

Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin appears in this new Reason.tv video on Washington, DC food trucks and the regulations that govern them. Eat up!