by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly
About a week or so ago, the city of Pensacola began enforcing a parking ordinance that effectively prohibits food trucks from operating on public property, like parking spaces along a sidewalk. This weekend, Mayor Grover Robinson has said, the city could issue fines to violators.
Food truck operators — operating for a while now in such areas, with the city forgoing any enforcement of its ordinance — have been vocal in their discontent with these prospects. Parking in a visible location, like parking spaces, perhaps near an establishment that doesn’t serve food, such as a brewery, has been become common for food trucks over the past couple of years in Pensacola.
“We’re trying to introduce ourselves to Pensacola, and that’s just being stifled right now by what the city is doing,” said Aiden Garcia, who runs Mi Su Street Food with his wife, Hylene.
When announcing the city’s enforcement of this parking ordinance, Mayor Robinson said City Councilwoman Ann Hill had brought this issue to his attention, requesting that the city enforce the ordinance. Hill says she did approach the mayor after receiving complaints from a downtown restaurant but was surprised when such a widespread ban on food trucks resulted.
“All the sudden this thing came down, like, ‘boom,’” Hill said. “I was shocked.”
Robinson has said he’s not opposed to food trucks operating in some public spaces but also can’t square having a law prohibiting such on the books and simply not enforcing it.
“Our ordinance says we don’t want food trucks,” he said. “We have an ordinance that doesn’t match what we want.”
Robinson suggested that if city council members are dissatisfied with the current ordinance, they should address it. That’s precisely what Councilman Casey Jones intends to do, with plans for introducing changes to both the city’s parking ordinance as well as its Land Development Code.
“I think it’s time to be changed,” the councilman said.
Jones intends to bring this up during next week’s Pensacola City Council meeting. He’s also kicking around the concept of a moratorium on enforcing the city’s current parking ordinance when it comes to food trucks.
“Maybe 60 or 90 days just until we get things sorted out,” Jones said.
Garcia is among those food truck operators and supporters that plan to show up for this discussion. Recognizing that the wheels of government can move slowly, he’s got measured expectations.
“It’s obviously out of our hands,” Garcia said. “We’re not really expecting this problem to be fixed for the next month or so.”
— for more on this municipal discussion on food trucks, check out the next issue of Inweekly.
On NewsTalk 1370 WCOA this morning, I interviewed Councilman Casey Jones: