Food Trucks Hotly Debated in Lexington

May 1, 2012

One of the organizers of last weekend’s Bluegrass Food Blast, which featured several mobile food vendors taking over a downtown parking lot, says the event demonstrated what would happen if the city relaxed restrictions on the food carts.  Amanda Tibbetts, with the Bluegrass Food Truck Association, told members of a task force working on an ordinance for so-called itinerant merchants in Lexington, that support for the mobile businesses is growing.

"We estimate that we had about 1300 people attend; the numbers could be a little bit more, maybe less.  We had about 500 people sign our petitions.  We had people that came just to sign the petitions.  They wanted to support us, so they wanted to come out and sign the petitions, they wanted to eat the food and enjoy everything.”

Urban County Council member Peggy Henson, who chairs the task force, says the panel is working on an ordinance that would both permit and encourage such mobile businesses while also protecting the economic interests of nearby brick and mortar establishments. 

“…and I really do support the food trucks and think they should have a voice but at the same time we’ve got to be fair to everybody and it is just unbelievably complicated.”

The process has been contentious at times; pitting the permanent establishments and their economic interests, against small business entrepreneurs who want to roll their mobile trucks and carts into and out of town.  A draft proposal discussed yesterday would create a pilot area where such mobile commerce would be permitted; but under certain restrictions including the purchase of special licenses, observance of buffer zones, and limited hours of operation.

Henson says the group hopes to have that proposal in front of the full council by the end of May.

“I’m really hoping that we can move; I can report out from this task force to the council and it will be heard in committee.  Once the committee has digested it, I hope that with all the work that it is going to be a good ordinance and won’t need a lot of work; and then we can move it on to the full council for a full vote, get it enacted.”