The Bureaucracy of the Food Truck Business

Adam Davidson reports the state of the food truck business (in New York City) for The New York Times:

The food-truck business, I realized, is a classic case of bureaucratic inertia. The city has a right to weigh the interests of food-market owners (who don’t want food trucks blocking their windows) and diners (who deserve to know that their street meat is edible, and harmless). But many of the rules governing location were written decades ago. In the ’80s, the city capped the number of carts and trucks at 3,000 (plus 1,000 more from April to October). Technically, a permit for a food cart or truck is not transferable, but Andrew Rigie, executive director of the N.Y.C. Hospitality Alliance, said that vendors regularly pay permit holders something like $15,000 to $20,000 to lease their certificates for two years. Legally, the permit holder becomes a junior partner in the new business.

If your fines in one day are more than what you make in a week, how can you possibly stay in business?

One woman, an Ecuadorean immigrant who sells kebabs in Bushwick, Brooklyn, handed Basinski the six tickets that she and her husband received on a single afternoon. The total came to $2,850, which, she said, was much more than what she makes in a good week. She had a street-vendor’s license, she said, but didn’t understand that she also needed a separate permit for her cart.

Perhaps NYC should take a page out of the Portland food truck scene.

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