Houston may ease food truck regulations to allow them in downtown, Medical Center

September 6, 2012 4:05:14 PM PDT
If getting your food from a bus does not sound like the most appetizing option, you probably have not seen the new wave of mobile food vendors. Many of them have gone from cheap eats to boutique restaurants on wheels.

There are hundreds of these mobile food trucks around town, but current city of Houston rules keep the trucks out of downtown Houston, or the Medical Center. However, that could soon change.

The food trucks are three deep at the University of Houston and students are happy to see them.

"It's actually a vegan bowl. It has mushrooms, spinach, all that good stuff. I picked it because it is probably the best thing for me out here," student Shelly Shepard said.

It's not exactly what you may be used to seeing from a food truck.

"Food trucks have been around forever, but he new wave of gourmet food trucks have been growing over the last few years," said Doug Le, manager of the Waffle Bus.

And while the trucks have come a long way in the type of food they serve, there are still places that are off-limits to the vehicles within the city of Houston.

Downtown is one of those places.

"It is a district of limitation, it is sort of a ban placed on any propane use in this area and the Med Center," said Oh My Pocket Pies food truck owner Joanna Torok.

Propane fires the cookers that keep mobile food trucks in demand.

Torok says the rules that keep the trucks out of downtown and the Med Center require food truck operators to have a fire marshal on scene.

But that is just one rule the food truck operators are hoping the city will change. The others would allow the trucks to park closer than 60 feet to each other and park near existing seating.

The city has been working on the rules changes and public hearings are planned later this months.

"We really want to come up with reasonable changes that allow food trucks to thrive and grow but also really understand the help we want to give restaurants to ensure that they stay competitive and that they stay profitable," said Laura Spanjian, director of Houston Sustainability.

Even if the trucks are allowed to roll through downtown and the Med Center, they can't just pull up to a street corner and start selling food; they would have to be parked on private property, and they also have to be inspected and regulated.

The first hearing is September 18. If all goes well, city leaders say changes could be coming to the food truck rules by the end of the year.


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