Food fight over truck regulations

Cupcakes, Lobster, Tacos: You name it, a food truck in D.C. is probably selling it. But the business receives little oversight. At the request of the restaurant industry, D.C. lawmakers are considering making some changes.

Food trucks have eaten into the business of restaurants, their legions of foodie-fans increasingly hungry for more. Restaurants have demanded the food trucks charge the same 10 percent city restaurants tax.

This week, food truck owners agreed to do so, but the fight isn't over.

"I don't think this is the only piece of what needs to be done to help foster an industry that is helping make D.C. hip and interesting to the rest of the world," said Kristi Whitfield, a representative of food trucks, adding, "If you're going to tax us like businesses, finish the job, and regulate us like businesses."

More rules, yes, but which ones?

Andrew Kline, who represents the restaurants, agrees there aren't enough regulations for food carts, comparing the situation to the Wild West.

"These trucks are everywhere. There's no management of them at this point," he said.

What the two groups don't agree on is what type of regulations should be added. Food truck owners say trucks have to follow the same antiquated laws as ice cream trucks, like having to pick up and leave if there's no line. Hiring processes are also complicated.

Restaurant owners counter that while they have to go through 18 permit processes to open an outdoor patio, food trucks can effectively do so by just parking on the curb. They point to an Austin regulation that allots specific times and spots for food trucks as an example to emulate. They'd prefer trucks not be allowed to set up shop right in front of restaurants.

The finance committee isn't wasting any time. It wants both sides to get together and come up with a plan within the next two weeks.