Dish on Market owner Marshall Grissom expressed his support for food trucks. | Screenshot of MetroTV

For food truck owners and their supporters, a comment by Metro Councilman Stuart Benson, R-20, may have summed up their feelings best.

“I hear people in the audience saying there is no problem, so what is the problem?” Benson asked, curious why the proposed ordinance changes were before the council’s Public Works, Facilities, Transportation & Accessibility Committee on Tuesday.

One of the biggest changes, which would impact food trucks and other mobile vendors, is creating designated zones where they can park, rather than allowing them to reserve (or bag) meters. The local food truck association and the Institute for Justice, which sued the city last year over laws limiting where food trucks could operate, have come out against the proposed changes.

Several speakers at the second public hearing on the proposed changes said the council was trying to fix problems that don’t exist.

“It is sort of regulation for regulations-sake that is not needed,” said resident Emily Walz, who told the committee that she has “no stake in the game except feeding my hunger.”

Walz argued that the proposed changes are pitting brick-and-mortar restaurants against food trucks.

“If a restaurant is not getting the business they need because there’s a food truck a little to close that they feel they’re getting more business, change your business model,” she said. “I think it drives healthy competition.”

Dish on Market owner Marshall Grissom told the committee that he likes having food trucks around and said they are discriminated against.

“That is very unfair to them, leaving them only a few spots,” said Grissom, who also expressed concerns about how PARC bags meters. The bags remain on meters more than 24 hours, preventing others from parking in those spots even during times a food truck isn’t there, though Grissom said he believes PARC just needs to do a better job of ensuring meters are only bagged during food trucks’ hours of operation.

One of the sponsors of the ordinance, Councilman Brandon Coan, D-8, defended the proposed changes and assured those in attendance that the designated parking zones would be in areas where food trucks already congregate.

Charles Downes, the owner of Black Rock Grille food truck, told the council committee, “If the zones are anywhere that aren’t where our business is, we won’t survive.”

A few speakers said if the changes move forward, they’d like the council to commit to where the zones would be, rather than trusting that the zones wouldn’t be in undesirable or less desirable areas.

Barbara Sexton Smith, D-4

After hearing feedback, another of the sponsors, Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith, D-4, said, “Maybe we need to consider putting some zones in the ordinance.”

Sexton Smith added that she plans to ask for a draft of what a proposed map of designated vending zones could look like but said a period of reconsideration would need to be included if specific zones are named in the ordinance to evaluate if a specific zone works.

Coan, Sexton Smith and other sponsors said the alterations are just a starting point. The proposed changes were tabled for now, but the next step is to look at possible tweaks and modifications.

“We don’t have a set timeline or date by which we are trying to finalize this,” Sexton Smith said.

She told Insider Louisville that ordinance changes will move forward in some form or fashion because the policy-related changes suggested by the speakers — including limiting the time that meters are bagged or adding handicap parking spaces so people can more easily access to the Veterans Affairs offices near Third and Main Street, a popular food truck spot — are not enough.

Where vendors can operate should be codified in legislation “so that we ensure equitable, organized management of public right of ways,” she said.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]