Prince Harry Visits Arlington Nat’l Cemetery – Britain’s Prince Harry is visiting Arlington National Cemetery this morning as part of his two-day visit to the Washington area. The prince is expected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and to visit the burial area for military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. [NBC Washington]
Now Official: Whole Foods to Pentagon City — Whole Foods has made it official and signed a deal with Vornado to open a 37,000 square foot store in on the ground floor of a planned 700-unit apartment building in Pentagon City. The store will be the company’s second in Arlington, and is expected to open in 2017. [Washington Business Journal]
Wieners Added to Testicle Festival – The Fairfax County-based Top Dog food truck has been recruited to serve hot dogs at next weekend’s Montana State Society Testicle Festival in Virginia Square. Jed Link, an organizer of the event, called the combination of Rocky Mountain Oysters and hot dogs “a culinary reunion that’s guaranteed to entertain.”
Flickr pool photo by Martin Humm
Arraignment for Air Force Officer — Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the airman who was removed from his post as head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program after being accused of sexual battery in Crystal City, is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in an Arlington County courtroom. While the Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney office is prosecuting the case, the Air Force has the option of bringing its own case against Krusinski. [Associated Press]
CivFed Opposes Tree Removal at Cemetery — The Arlington County Civic Federation voted Tuesday to oppose a plan to remove 800 trees at Arlington National Cemetery in order to make way for about 30,000 in-ground burial spots and niche spaces. The resolution asks Arlington’s congressional delegation to sponsor legislation to stop the plan and asks the County Board to officially support the legislation. [Sun Gazette]
Four Students Earn Nat’l Merit Scholarships — Four Arlington students have been awarded National Merit Scholarships. The students receiving the $2,500 scholarships are: Ariel Bobbett and Elizabeth Roy of Washington-Lee High School, Nicole Orttung of Yorktown High School, and Robert C. Wharton of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. [Arlington Public Schools]
Day One of School Board Caucus — The first day of the Arlington County Democratic Committee endorsement caucus for School Board will take place tonight from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Drew Model Elementary School (3500 23rd Street S.). The second day of party voting will take place on Saturday. Incumbent James Lander is facing off against challenger Barbara Kanninen for the Democratic endorsement. [Arlington Democrats]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The Arlington County Board last night voted to extend the one-hour parking limit for food trucks by another hour.
Food trucks will now be able to serve customers on local streets for up to two hours. They will not, however, be able to stay longer than the time allocated by the meter zone they’re parked in.
The previous one-hour limit had led to complaints and even legal challenges from food truck owners who argued that an hour doesn’t give them enough time to serve hungry customers in busy parts of the county where parking is at a premium.
“The extension of the vending time better reflects typical lunch hours and more closely aligns with the metered parking zones in Arlington,” the county said in a press release. “More than 90 percent of metered parking spaces within Arlington’s metro station areas are regulated for two or more hours.”
In voting unanimously for the change, Board members said food trucks are increasingly integral part of the community.
“Street vending has become a growing part of the retail scene in Arlington,” said County Board Chair Walter Tejada. “These changes, by giving vendors flexibility and ensuring consistent enforcement, provide balance and clarity for all of Arlington’s businesses that serve customers.”
Doug Maheu, Arlington County Director of the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington and owner of the Doug Food Dude food truck, said in a statement that food truck owners are largely pleased with the change, but would have liked even more time to vend.
Although the members of Metropolitan Washington Food Truck Association would not consider these amendments perfect, we do understand that they are a work in progress. We look forward to participating in future conversations with Arlington County as well as other stake holders on crafting equitable vending regulations. We applaud the Arlington County Board for moving forward to make Arlington a thriving diverse business community.
Maheu said food truck owners will continue to ask for four hour “block permits” that would allow even more vending time. As for the possibility of an influx of food trucks from D.C. to Arlington, should the District enact strict food truck regulations that have been proposed by Mayor Vincent Gray, Maheu said he’s not overly concerned.
“I believe that the market will take care of competition as it always done,” he said.
Maheu said he’s aware of 3 or 4 D.C. food trucks that have applied for permits to serve customers in Arlington, but added that he didn’t believe those applications were made in response to D.C.’s proposed regulations.
Arlington’s food trucks may have an easier time adhering to the law if the County Board adopts changes to an ordinance this weekend. The parking issues that have been plaguing food truck vendors and resulted in legal battles in recent months will come up at Saturday’s board meeting.
Proposed ordinance changes include extending the amount of time food trucks can park in one space from one hour to two hours. Currently, food trucks must move after one hour, but the ordinance wording is vague and doesn’t specify how far the vehicle must move, causing problems with enforcement. That’s another issue board members will examine on Saturday.
Food truck vendors have argued that the 60 minute rule hurts business because they were often forced to move in the middle of a lunch rush, or else face a citation. County staff appears to agree, based on the following excerpt from the staff report:
This time limitation is challenging for vendors and customers when typical lunch hours are between 12:00 noon and 2:00 p.m. A vendor is not able to adequately serve customers and patrons are unable to purchase lunch if their hours don’t correspond. Further, the overwhelming majority (approximately 90 percent) of parking meters within the Metro Station Areas are for at least two (2) hours.
Under the proposed ordinance amendments, the two hour limit would only cover time when vendors are actively selling to customers, not food prep time or clean up time. After a vendor’s time expires, sales would be required to stop and the vehicle would need to be moved to another marked parking space. If the parking area does not have metered spaces, the vehicle would need to be moved at least 25 feet.
Last month, a representative for the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington told ARLnow.com that the organization supports the county’s proposed ordinance changes.
Under the current ordinance, known as Chapter 30, food trucks are only allowed to remain parked for up to one hour. After that, they must move — but the current ordinance is vague and doesn’t specifically say how far they must move. Also, the ordinance contains contradictory language that can be interpreted as suggesting there is no time limit.
Food truck owners argue that the 60 minute limit hurts their business, as it can force them to shut down and move in the midst of the breakfast or lunch rush, even when customers are lined up. Since the trucks frequent busy Rosslyn, Ballston and Crystal City, that often means spending valuable sales time searching for a new parking space.
Food truck owners, fed up with getting ticketed for loitering when they refused to move, recently started mounting legal challenges against the ordinance, attacking the vague language. Last month they succeeded in getting prosecutors to drop loitering charges against one truck that was ticketed after police said it didn’t move “far enough.”
At the time, county officials acknowledged that the ordinance caused challenges for food vendors.
“We realize that the 60-minute time limit is challenging for vendors and for customers, and we are working to change it,” Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius told ARLnow.com.
True to that promise, county staff is now proposing that the food truck parking limit be raised to “the lesser of two (2) hours or the lawful time limit prescribed for the respective parking meter zone.” After that, the a food truck must only move to another marked parking space or 25 feet in the absence of marked spaces.
The County Board is set to vote to advertise a hearing on the proposed ordinance change on Saturday. After the hearing, to be held on April 20, the Board would then vote on whether to actually change the ordinance.
The one hour street vending limit was set in 2008, after the County Board voted to raise the limit from 5 minutes. From the county staff report:
Since those changes in 2008, there has been continued growth in vendors — mobile food trucks, carts and tables have increased in populated areas of Arlington. Social media has assisted with marketing for vendors, and customers have flocked to them. Today, Arlington has approximately 100 licensed mobile food vendors. The increased popularity of the mobile food vendors has raised questions about the regulations, including the amount of time permitted for vending, appropriate locations for vending, and the overall enforcement of Chapter 30.
Chapter 30’s current language has made it difficult for vendors, does not accommodate customers appropriately, and creates an enforcement challenge. Enforcement is time consuming and the ordinance does not provide clear-cut specificity. Additionally, a thorough reading of the ordinance highlighted an issue in which the construct of the language in Section 30-9 allows for a departure from the original intent of a time limitation for vending to a permissive allowance of vending anywhere, with no time limitation, so long as the vending occurs between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
“This interim amendment addresses several inconsistencies and is just one element of the comprehensive updates that will benefit all of Arlington’s businesses and customers,” said Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell. “As we move forward in the process, we’ll be having conversations with all stakeholders for input.”
An association of local food truck owners say they’re happy with the county’s proposal.
“The Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington is extremely pleased that Arlington is continuing its efforts to make the County a place where small businesses like ours can grow,” said Doug Povich, owner of the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck. ”Of all the jurisdictions in the area, Arlington seems to understand best how manage the various interests of all stakeholders in a way that benefits everyone. We look forward to continuing our work with the County as it is moves into the next stage of its regulatory process.”
The new Mama’s Donut Bites truck started serving Arlington late last month. The truck is an expansion of a donut business that has been serving local farmers markets for the past year or so, according to Food Truck Fiesta. The donuts are made freshly in the truck using local ingredients, and served hot.
As reported by Food Truck Fiesta, the mini-sized donuts cost $3 for 6, $5 for 12 or $10 for 26. Coffee costs $1.50.
The donut menu rotates seasonally; past and current favors include “classic,” apple cider, pumpkin spice, dutch cocoa, blueberry and red velvet. According to the truck’s Facebook page, a free toppings bar offers:
- Homemade Raspberry Preserves
- Dark Chocolate Sauce
- White Chocolate Sauce
- Vanilla Icing
- Cinnamon-Vanilla Whipped Cream
- Clover Honey
- Cinnamon & Sugar
- Powdered Sugar
- Rainbow Sprinkles
In Arlington, the truck has thus far served Rosslyn, Ballston and Arlington Hall. The truck was supposed to travel to Rosslyn today, but reportedly had transmission problems and was instead stranded on the side of I-66.
Photo via Facebook
Currently, under Arlington County Code 30-9, food trucks are prohibited from vending on a public street for more than an hour in one spot. The enforcement of that portion of the Arlington County Code led to an outcry among food truck owners, who say it unfairly targets their business in order to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Late last year, the Institute for Justice, an Arlington-based libertarian law firm, announced that it was taking up the case of Arlington food trucks as part of its National Street Vending Initiative, which seeks to break down legal barriers for street vendors. Today, that effort bore fruit.
An Arlington County judge, at the request of prosecutors from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, dismissed a loitering charge against Hyun “Anna” Shil Goree, co-owner of the Seoul Food truck. Goree was charged with the crime — a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 — after a police officer determined that she had not moved her truck “far enough” to comply with the law.
Last year Goree was fined $25 and $200 after pleading no contest to street vendor loitering charges in August and October. After being charged again in December, she decided to fight back, enlisting the help of the the Institute for Justice and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher LLP. The charged was dismissed today via a nolle prosequi motion.
The Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington, which has spoken out against the Arlington ordinance, says the dismissal is a victory against an arbitrary law that’s “vague and open to different interpretations.”
“This case highlights the absurdity of treating what amounts to a parking violation as a crime on par with assault,” said Doug Povich, co-owner of Red Hook Lobster Pound truck and Chairman of the Food Truck Association. “The Food Truck Association hopes to work with the County in the months ahead to craft a food-truck law that serves the County’s residents and workers and keeps food trucks as a vibrant part of Arlington’s business community and streetscape.”
Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius said the county is indeed working to change the ordinance.
“We realize that the 60-minute time limit is challenging for vendors and for customers, and we are working to change it,” Curtius said. “We hope to be bringing something forward in the Spring.”
Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said she asked for the charges to be dismissed after consulting with the police department.
“I made the decision… in consultation with the police department and with the awareness that the current ordinance is very difficult to enforce,” she told ARLnow.com. “It’s difficult to enforce because it requires a police officer to watch a truck for an hour (or some other witness willing to come to court to testify to the fact that the food truck hasn’t moved in 60 minutes)… then there is the definition of ‘move’ that is also problematic. Does it mean an inch? A parking space? Around the block?”
“The officers were responding to requests from store owners to enforce the ordinance,” Stamos continued. “Unfortunately, the ordinance, as written, is rather unclear and a criminal statute is always construed against the Commonwealth and in favor of the defendant, which is as it should be.”
Stamos said it’s “unlikely” that her office will prosecute additional loitering cases against food trucks until the County Board updates the ordinance.
The full press release from the Food Truck Association, after the jump.
Hello ARLnow readers! I have been a fan of this site since its earliest days, and I am now proud to be a contributor. I am amazed at the dining public’s bottomless appetite for content about restaurants and food culture. As an operator, I think this is great, and the attention certainly contributes to every operator’s success. However, there does seem to be an occasional disconnect between the dining public and restaurant professionals. I hope to offer a bridge between the two by providing an insider’s perspective on trends and issues that pertain to our business. And since I am a local, and this is the most local of websites, it will have an Arlington twist.
To kick things off, I’ll take advantage of the New Year theme and start a discussion about one food trend that should be of great interest to many who live and work in Arlington. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss other trends and give you a chance to get your burning restaurant questions answered in a live Q&A.
Food Trucks: I’ll Skip the Politics, Thanks
Ahhh, the food truck: bringing funky food to the cubicle masses in guerilla form. What an idea, albeit an old one in Arlington. Ever had a pupusa from the trucks that hover around our construction sites? Tasty. The concept has been around forever. Nonetheless, the convoys roaming the county now represent a huge trend, and it’s growing. The Post just ran a piece recalling that during the 2008 inaugural there was one food truck operating in DC. One. This year, there are over 100. Thirty of them will be there to feed the inaugural masses today. For our recent holiday party, in fact, we hired a couple of trucks to camp out in the alley behind Spider Kelly’s for our staff to enjoy, including Big Cheese (I recommend the “Thrilled Cheese”) and District Taco (the carnitas is a favorite).
But for the consumer, the question remains: How many trucks can the market reasonably sustain? Business Darwinism will cull the herd in 2013 for two reasons. First, just because it’s on a truck with a cool paint job doesn’t mean it’s great food. Sometimes it is, sometimes it ain’t. There are only so many spots they can park in, and the service window is short. The ones that don’t truly offer something special will fade out.
Second, sometimes people want to sit down at a table inside to eat, even at lunch. Even if they don’t, most eaters assume that by sacrificing the comfort of a chair and a plate, they’ll receive a commensurate decrease in price. However, price points on these trucks can rival or exceed the restaurants they’re parked in front of. This again raises the bar for the food inside the truck: If it’s not better, cheaper and more convenient, customers will seek a spot that is. Is it worth it to squat on a curb for your meal if what’s inside that foil wrapper is just mediocre?
You, the dining public, will decide their fate with your wallets. Will there be 100 trucks prowling at noon this time next year? I wouldn’t bet on it.
In 2013, will you be visiting food trucks as often, more often or less often than you did in 2012? Let us know in the comment section.
I look forward to hearing from all of you, and if you ever want to come by to share your thoughts with me in person, pull up a barstool at Spider Kelly’s or Eventide and let me have it. But please, buy a drink first.
At issue is a citation received by Seoul Food for violating the 60 minute rule, which police began enforcing over the summer. As noted in a CATO Institute post last week, the food truck owner told police he had moved to a different spot after one hour, but the ticketing officer didn’t believe the truck had moved far enough from its original position.
The Arlington-based Institute for Justice (901 N. Glebe Road) became involved after some of its workers heard about the legal issues while stopping at a food truck for lunch one day. They thought it fit perfectly into the organization’s National Street Vending Initiative, which aims to foster conditions that allow food trucks to thrive.
“We’ve been fighting on behalf of vendors across the nation and wanted to find a way for them [Seoul Food] to continue earning an honest living,” said Institute for Justice (IJ) attorney Robert Frommer, who also represented Arlington doggy daycare business Wag More Dogs in its unsuccessful fight against Arlington’s sign regulations.
Because it’s a criminal matter, the IJ didn’t take on the case itself, but instead requested assistance from law firms in the D.C. metro area that might be willing to work on the case pro bono. Frommer said a number of firms have come forward to assist Seoul Food, and possibly other vendors that may be in a similar situation.
Besides fighting the citations, the goal is to work with Arlington County to change the 60 minute rule.
“Food trucks give people with big dreams, but not a lot of capital, a chance to work hard and succeed,” said Frommer. “They do that in a way that benefits the community. Arlington County should recognize that and rescind its one hour rule so food trucks can continue to thrive and serve the community.”
Frommer said workers at IJ believe the 60 minute rule is unconstitutional.
“The 60 minute rule furthers no legitimate government interest in safety. All it does is make the lives of vendors difficult and prevents them from being able to succeed,” he said. “It’s the government’s job to regulate health and safety, but it’s not the government’s job to pick winners and losers. That’s the job of consumers.”
The IJ also believes the penalties for violating the 60 minute rule are too harsh. Per the Arlington County code, “Any person violating any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.” A Class 1 offense is the most severe of Virginia’s four misdemeanor classifications, and could bring penalties of jail time up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500. Other examples of Class 1 misdemeanors include DUI, assault and battery, possession of marijuana and driving on a suspended license.
County code does not, however, list a specific distance food trucks are required to move after one hour, so it’s up to the interpretation of each officer enforcing the law. According to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, officers try to be consistent.
“Based upon how the county code is currently written, our officers use discretion in citing the food truck vendors,” said Sternbeck. “When the officers appear in court, they must be able to articulate a reason why they cited them [the vendors].”
In the Seoul Food case, the vendor claims to have been given three different answers as to how far he was required to move his vehicle. Police say the vendor has been given the appropriate documentation regarding the rules on numerous occasions.
Sternbeck notes that police have been “flooded” with complaints about food trucks, and the officers are merely responding to the complaints. He said officers do not target food truck vendors unless responding to a complaint. A number of brick and mortar restaurants and other businesses consistently call to complain when food trucks are parked in front of their establishments, Sternbeck said.
Sternbeck said that officers spent hours going around and educating the food truck vendors on the rules before enforcement efforts commenced. Currently, vendors are warned on their first offense and ticketed for any incidents after that.
“We have to respond to these complaints and that requires us to sit out there for at least one hour to see that vendors have not moved,” said Sternbeck. “It’s up to the courts once we present the information and facts on it, whether or not they want to proceed with the fine.”
The IJ believes the community will back the efforts to change the 60 minute rule, which could help the initiative gain steam.
“I think the people in Arlington love the food trucks. Every day I go out to lunch I see people lined up. People love choice, they love having the option to decide what they want for lunch,” Frommer said. “When they understand what the 60 minute rule is doing to food trucks, I think they’ll strongly support the reforms we believe the county should adopt.”
Pepe, a new-for-2012 food truck that has been making the rounds in D.C. for the past six months and Montgomery County for the past week, made its Virginia debut in Crystal City today outside Jaleo restaurant on Crystal Drive.
The truck, from Jaleo proprietor José Andrés, primarily serves flautas, a type of elongated sandwich that Andrés remembered fondly from growing up in Spain, where flautas are a popular street food.
“Chicago does hot dogs, Spain does flautas,” a member of the gathered crowd was heard saying as the truck served a steady stream of curious customers.
The level of culinary sophistication is markedly higher for Andrés’ offerings, however. Among sandwiches on the menu today were:
- Butifarra ‘Burger’ — Spanish pork burger with alioli and brava sauce
- Futbol Club Barcelona — thinly sliced chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, shallot mayonnaise
- Escalivada – roasted eggplant, red peppers, sweet onions, spinach and mojo rojo
- Spanish grilled cheese — with manchego, murcia, valdeon, membrillo and fresh goat cheese
In addition to the sandwiches, Pepe serves fresh gazpacho, chips and two signature drinks: a non-alcoholic “gin and tonic” with homemade tonic and juniper simple syrup, and a non-alcoholic sangria.
Sean Wheaton, the chef in charge of overseeing Pepe, acknowledged that it was a bit unusual for an established restaurant group — with locations in D.C., Las Vegas and Beverly Hills — to launch a food truck. But it was done with more than just business opportunity in mind. Wheaton says the truck will be used by Andrés’ World Central Kitchen organization to provide emergency food and drink in disaster zones across the country. For instance, after this summer’s derecho, the truck provided water at cooling stations in D.C.
There is only one Pepe truck and it will be splitting its time between D.C., Montgomery County and Arlington. Plans are also in the works to expand service to Alexandria, Wheaton said.
Next week, Wheaton said, the truck is planning to serve lunch in Arlington on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. It’s unclear where in Arlington the truck will be on Monday and Tuesday, but on Thursday it will be at Crystal City’s Food Truck Thursday. It may also come to Arlington in the evening, though those plans are not finalized.
Wheaton said the truck has been “very successful” in D.C. and he said he hopes it becomes a go-to destination in Arlington, as well, although he said it might take some experimentation and patience to figure out where and when to park the truck here.
“We’re just getting our feet wet in Arlington, figuring out where the demand is,” he said.
Officials Prepare for USS Arlington Commissioning — Arlington County Board Chairman Mary Hynes, county treasurer Frank O’Leary and other local leaders traveled to Norfolk on Wednesday to meet with Navy officials to plan for the commissioning of the USS Arlington, a new amphibious transport ship named after the county. The commissioning ceremony is currently planned for April 2013. [Sun Gazette]
José Andrés Food Truck Coming to Arlington — Famed local chef José Andrés (of Jaleo fame) is bringing his new food truck venture in Arlington. The “Pepe” food truck is expanding its service area from the District to Montgomery County and Arlington. The truck serves a rotating selection of flautas — a type of Spanish sandwich. [Huff Post DC]
Arlington Scores Above Average, Below Fairfax on SATs — Arlington Public Schools students in the class of 2012 scored an average of 1641 (out of 2400) on the SATs. That score is above the national average of 1498 and above the state average of 1517, but slightly below the Fairfax County average of 1654. [Patch]
Pentagon Exhibit Seeking Veteran Artists — An organization called the Veteran Artist Program is seeking art submissions from military veterans for a new veteran art exhibit at the Pentagon. Organizers told ARLnow.com that they’ve received numerous submissions from around the county, but not many from the Northern Virginia area. The entry deadline is Oct. 30. [Veteran Artist Program]
Clarendon Salon to Hold Grand Opening — Casal’s de Spa and Salon has been open at 3033 Wilson Blvd in Clarendon since June, but the business will be holding its official “grand opening” ceremony this weekend. The non-tipping salon will be offering food, libations, and music from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Northern Va. Senior Olympics Come to Arlington — The Northern Virginia Senior Olympics will kick off tomorrow (Saturday) with a day-long track-and-field competition at Thomas Jefferson Community Center (3501 2nd Street S.). The Senior Olympics, which utilize several venues from around Northern Virginia, run from Sept. 15-26. Other events planned at the community center include basketball next Saturday, Sept. 22.
District Taco Not Launching a Food Truck — District Taco owner Osiris Hoil says he plans to continue using food carts, as opposed to larger food trucks, since Arlington is now enforcing a stringent one hour street parking rule for mobile food vendors. In addition to a food cart, District Taco also operates two successful brick and mortar restaurants. [Washington Examiner]
Apology for Network Issues — ARLnow.com has experienced network problems that made our site unreachable for many readers on two separate days this week. We would like to apologize to all readers affected by the problems. Also, we would like to thank our advertisers, who make this site possible, for sticking with us during that time. New infrastructure is now in place to make sure these problems (hopefully) never happen again.
Around lunchtime on Friday, Aug. 24, five Arlington County police officers, including three undercover officers in plainclothes, were assigned to enforce mobile vending regulations along the county’s Metro corridors. By the time lunchgoers had returned to their offices, police had issued seven court summonses to four different food trucks for a variety of violations.
The operation was one of two such coordinated enforcement actions against food trucks this summer — operations that have become necessary due to repeated violations, according to police.
As the number of food trucks in Arlington continues to rise, complaints against improperly licensed or illegally parked food trucks have risen — with many of those complaints coming from the brick and mortar restaurants that compete with food trucks for customers. In response, Arlington County Police say they came up with a plan of action earlier this year that included a vendor education campaign.
“[Police] determined that based on the number of complaints, we needed to at least assess the situation,” Arlington County Police second district commander Capt. Andy Penn told ARLnow.com. “We looked to see what was going on and noted that there were some violations were occurring. [We] then got together and decided that the best approach is going to be an educational campaign, certainly in the beginning, just trying to make sure people are informed and seek compliance.”
Penn said police met with vendors, inspected vending licenses, and handed out a small booklet listing relevant county ordinances. They also distributed a one-page handout of the most commonly-violated mobile food vending rules, including requirements for each vendor and employee to be licensed and — the perhaps most controversial rule — that food trucks can only remain parked in one spot for 60 minutes at a time. Finally, officers issued warnings when vendors were not in compliance, Penn said.
With the warnings distributed and the violations continuing, police began enforcement, issuing summonses that require the vendors to appear in court, in person, and pay a fine.
“The goal was not to give anybody a summons until they’ve been warned at least one time, if not more,” Penn said. “To my knowledge, the people charged have been previously warned.”
On July 25, a coordinated “district team” of officers observed how long food trucks were parked in various areas and issued summonses to three vendors, all for parking more than 60 minutes, Penn said. On Aug. 24, five officers — including two uniformed officers and three plainclothes officers — issued seven summonses to four different vendors.
The plainclothes officers were only detailed to the district team on Aug. 24 for a “limited amount of time,” Penn noted, and were in plainclothes “for a different issue.”
“The initial intent for the plainclothes had nothing to do with vendors,” he said. “They just happened to be in plainclothes that day.”
Food truck operators, meanwhile, have been voicing their discontent, calling the rules — in place since 2010 — “unfair,” and suggesting the fines and required court appearances are heavy-handed.
“Law enforcement has stepped up efforts in major areas like Crystal Drive, N. Lynn Street and N, Stuart Street in Ballston to enforce the rule,” Bada Bing food truck owner Nicholas Terzella told ARLnow.com via email on Aug. 24. “Police have been staking trucks out. When I was parked in Crystal City a few weeks ago, an Arlington County police officer sat across from Chic fil A for over an hour. In this time, multiple cars pulled up to 2200 Crystal Drive and double parked (this happens daily). None of these cars are EVER ticketed. The officer sat there for 1.5 hours and ticketed us.”
“This is the first time in my 2 years of business that I have ever received a ticket,” he continued. “I admit, parking in those particular locations is AWFUL!! That’s why we can’t just leave after the 60 minutes and just grab another spot. This rule ends our lunch service early and makes staying in Arlington impossible. We have to change it now or Arlington will soon be a food truck wasteland.”
Five trucks — Doug the Food Dude, Bada Bing, Lemongrass, Hot People Food and Willie’s Po Boy — were on the docket for the so-called “Arlington Food Truck Invasion” at the Half Street Fairgrounds near Nationals Park. The free event, which also included beer, games of cornhole and a performance by the funk band Sol Roots, was held from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
“We invited 5 Arlington food trucks to give them a chance to vend in D.C. as well as the customers a chance to see food trucks that they don’t see every day,” said Doug “The Food Dude” Maheu, whose wife Andrea helped to organize the event.
“We feel like we’re being treated as a second-class business,” Goree said Friday. “We’re a micro-business, aspiring to be a bigger small business and it seems like that’s something that would be fostered by the community.”
Goree said police told food truck owners a few weeks ago that they would soon start enforcing the regulation. In May, Jill Griffin, a commercial development specialist for Arlington Economic Development, said she had heard enforcing the time limit “has been challenging.”
Griffin also said officials hoped to talk with stakeholders this summer to form recommendations for updating Arlington’s vending ordinance this fall.
“If you open at 11 [a.m.] or 11:30 [a.m.] that hour is only going to get you to when you have the longest line right in the very middle of your lunch rush,” Goree said.
Goree said he thinks ongoing tension between food truck owners and brick-and-mortar restaurant owners is behind Wednesday’s enforcement. Also in May, ARLnow.com obtained an internal document from the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) that said “the number, location and type of operation” of food trucks and carts is “inadequately regulated by Arlington County.”
The Rosslyn BID is funded by the property owners who rent space to the neighborhood’s restaurants, delis and cafes.
The Bada Bing truck also reported receiving a ticket Wednesday on its Twitter page. Ice cream food truck Sinplicity tweeted out a similar message. Goree’s court date is Aug. 21. There was no fine listed on the citation.
“If a truck or a car parks at a metered spot, it can stay there for as long as the meter allows,” said Rob Frommer, an attorney with the Institute For Justice, a Ballston-based libertarian public interest law firm. “It doesn’t make any sense to arbitrarily limit how long one particular type of vehicle can remain in one spot.”
Two years ago, the Institute for Justice began a National Street Vending Initiative to help legalize food trucks and vendors. Frommer said Arlington’s own experience with the growing food truck industry helped inform the organization’s goals.
“It seemed like Arlington was doing a good job of embracing the vendors and letting these businesses start up,” Frommer said. “This change in enforcement is an unfortunate and surprising development.”