Pittsburgh food trucks rally for street food freedom

Councilman Bill Peduto has proposed a new ordinance that would greatly reform food truck laws in Pittsburgh, making it one of the most food-truck friendly cities in the country. Right now, Pittsburgh’s food truck regulations are some of the worst nationwide. Vendors can’t park in metered spaces and have to pack up and move every half hour. Even worse, culinary entrepreneurs are banned from selling within 500 feet of any open brick-and-mortar restaurant that sells a similar product.

On top of that, it’s illegal to sell street food after midnight, even though bars are open until 2 a.m. So there goes the late night market.

But if enacted, Councilman Peduto’s ordinance would:
Eliminate the anticompetitive (and unconstitutional) proximity ban

  • Allow food trucks to stay open until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends
  • Let mobile vendors to stay in one stop for up to four hours, instead of just 30 minutes
  • Allow food trucks to park at metered spaces
  • The 500 foot proximity ban not only needlessly restricts consumer choice, it’s also unnecessary.

After all, mobile vendors can be sensitive to public perception since parking right outside of small eateries can be bad PR. Take Lynne Szarnicki, of the Pierogi Truck: “I’m not going to go right outside of S&D Polish Deli in the Strip and go, ‘I’m selling pierogies today.’ You know why? I’m not an ass. That’s just wrong.”

Doreen Valentine, who runs the Dozen Dessert Truck, told the Pittsburgh City Paper in August that if the Steel City reforms it ordinance, Pittsburgh could “have a huge food truck scene”:

“So many other major cities have a huge food-truck scene. People always complain that Pittsburgh is behind the times. Why can’t we for once not be lagging behind?” she says. “I think Pittsburghers are ready for it and want it. But because of the laws, we can’t get it out to the people the way that it could be.”

Street food is already starting to catch on in Pittsburgh. This past summer, Tapped PGH hosted a series of “pop up beer gardens” in different neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, featuring brewers and food trucks. Back in August, Wigle Whiskey, an urban craft distiller, held a “Tar and Feather Party” party with Pittsburgh food trucks. Wigle provided the whisky and cocktails while local museums and theaters provided the entertainment.

To help galvanize support, local mobile vendors have created Pgh Mobile Food, a coalition dedicated to “freeing food trucks to feed the people.” The coalition is urging yinzers and anyone who favors street food freedom to sign their petition.

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