Pensacola to seek path forward for food trucks [podcast]

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:

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1 thought on “Pensacola to seek path forward for food trucks [podcast]

  1. Nothing on the council agenda for next week, yet. Jeremy Morrison writes, “…that effectively prohibits food trucks from operating on public property…” It does remain to be seen if Section 12-3-65 has anything at all to do with food trucks. Robinson undercut his own position by saying that “he” would allow food trucks to set-up in the city hall parking lot, in violation of city law if Section 12-3-65 means what he claims it means. The council memorandums from 1986, 1996 and 2006 related to Section 12-3-65 have been requested from the City Clerk so we may find out soon if the city council’s intent was to regulate food trucks. Heard also that the alleged legal opinion might have been given by a junior attorney. That has been requested too so we may soon find out more. By the way, Section 12-3-65 is not limited to public property so if it does apply to food trucks then it applies on private property too. That seems crazy. Spoke with a council member today who agrees that Section 509.102, Florida Statutes, severely preempts city authority with respect to food trucks rendering Section 12-3-65 irrelevant because it applies citywide, in addition to probably not applying to food trucks. The only interesting legal issue is what is meant by this phrase in Section 509.102(2) – “…may not prohibit mobile food dispensing vehicles from operating within the entirety of the entity’s jurisdiction.” Section 509.102(3) is poorly written but seems to provide for local governments to regulate food trucks by ordinance. I have seen one report where a municipality thought the law prohibited it from keeping food trucks out of a specific area such as a part of downtown. Maybe, probably not. The Attorney General could clarify and then the Florida Legislature could rewrite Section 509.102(3) in English. The city’s problem – today – is that no one told the city council about Section 509.102 in early 2020 – a failure of the Robinson Administration – and so – today – the city has no food truck ordinance. It can torture all of the city laws it wants to claim it does but it does not. Robinson should end the war of food trucks and go back on vacation. The city seems to run a lot better when Keith Wilkins is running things. He’s not crazy.

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