Food trucks like this one from All Star Catering, a rarity in Baton Rouge until this year, are becoming a force in the market. As a result, officials are considering whether the city-parish needs new regulations on how close they may operate to bricks-and-mortar restaurants.
Baton Rouge’s popular mobile vendors have plenty of followers, but the self-described Food Truck Revolution isn’t without wrinkles. At issue is where trucks can sell in relation to bricks-and-mortar restaurants. The debate was triggered by isolated incidents during the summer in which some vehicles parked near fixed eateries. The Kickers BBQ truck, for example, occupied metered spaces across from the Main Street Market, sparking complaints from vendors inside. The Downtown Development District found little on the books to clarify things, except restrictions on meter feeding, says Executive Director Davis Rhorer. “I like the entrepreneurial spirit of the trucks, but they need to be integrated in a way that’s good for everybody,” he says. Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker has asked the Parish Attorney’s Office to research nationwide examples. Meanwhile, the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association is pushing for resolution. “First of all, we’d like the trucks as members,” says President Andy Blouin. “But there needs to be distance from fixed restaurants. The trucks also need to be allowed to vend on private property, and we need to make sure health and sanitation have the same standards as other restaurants.” Taco de Paco truck owner Jared Loftus says he welcomes posted health inspections, but says it’s too early in the game for rigid rules concerning location. “We give lip service to these cool new things, and then we want to regulate them,” he says. “We’ve got to be very conscious of not over-regulating. We need to make sure it’s a level playing field.”