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Petitioning City Council Member Jason Burgess and 5 others

Tell Charlotte City Council to Support Mobile Food Trucks



In the fall of 2008, the Charlotte City Council approved an ordinance that in effect put the majority of mobile food vendors out of business. The ordinance states that a mobile food vendor may not be within 400 feet from a home; must close by 9pm; and may only be in a specific location for no more than 90 days.

Before the passage of the ordinance, there were approximately 50 vendors working in the Charlotte area. Two years later, there are now around 7 still open(not taking into account the new trucks that have popped up recently). This ordinance is based on what the Zoning Department has admitted are just "perceptions" of how food trucks attract crime and loitering in the community. Zoning admitted that they had no hard evidence to substantiate these "perceptions". The ordinance was written in such a way that in effect it mostly affected Loncheras (hispanic mobile food vendors) negatively.

Mobile food vendors are small businesses trying to survive in the current bad economy. In an economic atmosphere where many are out of work, mobile food vendors employ people locally. As hard-working tax payers who pay for permits to do business, they  help stimulate the local economy. Ask the Charlotte City Council to ammend the ordinance and allow these hard-working valuable members of our community to go back to work.



                                  Watch the CNN report on Charlotte mobile food vendors at: 


Letter to
City Council Member Jason Burgess
City Council Member Patsy Kinsey
City Council Member Andy Dulin
and 3 others
Mayor Anthony Foxx
City Council Member James Mitchell
Mayor Pro-Tem Patrick Cannon
I am writing to ask that you repeal parts of Section 12.510 –titled Mobile Food Vending Service- of Appendix A of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Charlotte. Mobile Food Vendors are a culinary and cultural treasure and are economic engines for the areas in which they operate. I fully support these mobile food vendors in their quest to remain open for business.

As with any rules that regulate any other parts of our daily lives, I am not opposed to regulations, as long as they promote the general good. I just ask that you do not regulate in such a manner as to put these hard-working productive members of our society out of business. In an economic atmosphere where many are out of work, mobile food vendors help by employing people. As valuable tax-paying members of our community who pay for permits to work, they also help stimulate the economy.

Food trucks represent beneficial employment opportunities, during a time when the economy is still recovering. In addition to employment opportunities, as much of Charlotte is being developed and populations are being shifted these small businesses offer more affordable and convenient food options for less affluent families in our community.

The specific parts of Section 12.510 that require a 9PM closing time and a distance of 400 feet from a residence have forced many vendors to go out of business. The hours and locations of operation are what used to make these mobile food vendors successful. The sections in the ordinance that deal with duration in a particular location are also too strict and needlessly create a barrier to building a sustainable clientele.

Like any other small private enterprise, mobile food vendors are taking the initiative and have chosen to open their own businesses. They are trying to survive in the current economy, and regulations like the ones the Charlotte City Council passed in the Autumn 2008 only work to deter the growth and productivity of small businesses. These ventures provide good employment opportunities for immigrants and low income individuals to begin their own businesses.

The ordinance originated based on complaints that these businesses increase crime and loitering. In spite of the numerous requests, the individuals raising these concerns never produced any evidence to substantiate their claims. Instead, the ordinance was based on what the Zoning Department admitted were just “perceptions”. Additionally, there is solid research that proves that there is less crime where mobile food vendors are present. Crime statistics from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department, show that communities like NoDa and Elizabeth have more crime incidents reported than where mobile food vendors are present. One example of the potential crime-prevention associated with the presence of mobile food vendors is the Central Avenue corridor. According to statistics gathered from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department website, during the year leading to the adoption of the current ordinance, there was not one drug related incident reported. After the adoption of the current ordinance, there have been many drug related incidents reported. Acs stated in a study conducted by the UCLA School of Urban Studies, the presence of mobile food vendors helps keep crime down.

According to multiple studies, our communities are safer when mobile food vendors are present. One such study sponsored by the City of Seattle WA (Food Cartology) found that "vacant lots and parking lots can create ‘gaps’ in the pedestrian environment, reducing ‘eyes on the street.’ This decreases safety or perceptions of safety, deterring people from walking in these areas. Furthermore, according to the study conducted by the UCLA School of Urban Planning (LONCHERAS: A Look at the Stationary Food Trucks of Los Angeles), the argument that sidewalk vendors contribute to the public safety could not have gained more credence than by the recent example of the three New York City peddlers at Times Square whose opportune alerting of the police about a suspicious car averted a potentially disastrous bombing and killing of dozens". Even more than pedestrians, workers stationed daily in the same outdoor location are able to notice subtleties that may indicate danger and that could go unnoticed if a city’s streets were empty. Moreover, the outdoor presence of average city dwellers has always been known to deter wrongdoing, which is probably one crucial reason (aside from darkness) that the rate of crime and violence is usually higher in the loneliness of night. Here in Charlotte, on Central Avenue, one of the owners of Central Food Mart has asserted "when we had the food truck outside, we felt it was safer. Having him outside felt like having a security guard on site".

I believe there is room to allow these small business owners the leeway to stay open a little later and to work in what are already considered business corridors. Additionally, in order for these vendors to build a sustainable clientele, it makes sense to lift the overly burdensome 90-day limit on duration in a location. It is only fair that they be afforded the same consideration and support that is given to other small businesses in other parts of our great city.

We know that you only have the best interest of the citizens of Charlotte in mind and that you are a pro-small business governing body. It is my hope that as a member of the Charlotte City Council who is responsive to the needs of your constituency, you will support these hardworking small business owners and amend the ordinance in order to allow them to go back to work and be able to provide for their families.

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