Food Trucks and Colonials

“What do you guys call July 4th back in your country?”

If we had a dedicated day for every time a colony declared independence from us, we’d be the slackers of Europe. It’s tough being a former Empire.

You may have heard the kerfuffle over the proposed new food truck (well, ‘mobile vendors’, but they can only sell food or newspapers) regulations that the city of Durham released last week. If not, you can go have a look at them on the Durham website. Most of the new code is not controversial; the city has removed the requirement that carts have to move at least 15 feet every hour (not that this was being enforced outside of Duke, mind you, but still good to see it gone), plus they’ve eliminated the additional mobile vendor permit ($50/year).

Unfortunately, there were a few problems with the proposed revisions. The first was a proposed 300 feet exclusion zone around any area that has been granted a Special Event Permit. Though somebody applying for the permit could choose not to sign up for all or any of the 300 feet zone, it appears that the default distance will be the full 300 feet (this wasn’t entirely made clear during the meeting, as the government officials contradicted themselves a few times). Food trucks would not be allowed with 100 feet of a restaurant unless they had written permission from the owner, and worst of all, the code established a Central Park Zone that created a bubble around the Farmers’ Market that would have made it impossible to operate a food truck in the area when the Market was in operation (as opposed to now, where trucks and the Market live side-by-side). For vendors such as Monuts Donuts, this would have been a catastrophe (and, let’s be clear, it would have been a big problem for us too!).

Overall, it was a successful meeting; the city realized that that public opinion was against the more draconian of the new rules and reacted accordingly - the 100 feet restriction has been reduced to 50, and the over-zealous Central Park Zone bubble was completely eliminated. Hurrah! We did get made to feel a bit sheepish by some of the council members, though, as they pointed out that while it was great to see such a display of support, the council holds meetings every other week on equally important subjects and hardly anybody turns up. Ouch. This was followed by a councillor pointing out a new survey that showed Durham had one of the highest concentrations of the creative class in America. Cue applause.

Then he pointed out that the same survey gives Durham the fifth highest inequality in the country.

and silence.

Way to make us feel bad, councillor. But I think we needed it, to be honest; I hope to attend a few meetings in future, and it’s important to consider that Durham is rapidly becoming two cities. And we weren’t here first.