Reinventing The Wheel Spokane is working to craft sensible and encouraging rules for food trucks BY HEIDI GROOVER
hen someone in Browne’s Addition complained that the Jamaican Jerk Pan food trailer was parked in their neighborhood, owners Sabrina Sorger and Roian Doctor felt overrun with city inspectors. One came to tell them the area was residential and they couldn’t be parked there, but later realized it was actually commercial. Another came to enforce a provision of their food service license that mandates trucks and trailers like this move every 10 minutes, but then backtracked. The third scolded them for having an extension cord that crosses the sidewalk between their trailer and Cannon Coffee & Cone, but later allowed them to just mark the cord with bright spray paint to warn people it’s there.
“Each one told us something different,” Sorger says. “I get it, they don’t have a process for this. I get why they want to reinvent it.” Amid confusion and blurry enforcement of some aspects of food truck, trailer and cart operation, the city has no way to regulate others at all, so it’s looking at how to change the rules. But that’s worrying people like Sorger and Doctor, a Jamaican native the regulars call “Doc” who serves up spicy curry and jerk chicken with rice. They know change is necessary, but they’re worried about the red tape and price tags that could come along with a reinvention.
s part of its Mobile Food Vendor Project, a team of city staff is working to make the process of opening and operating food trucks easier. They’re seeing an increased interest in food trucks and carts from both individuals and entire business districts. “We’re woefully underserved for food options,” says Jack Strong, a business owner and president of the East Spokane Business Association, advocating for the East Central area that stretches out to the Valley. “For a business district like this to fully revitalize, it needs to be that sort of destination, like a food destination like we’ve seen in the Perry District.” Strong hopes to help the city find areas suitable for food trucks in the area and then work to attract mobile food vendors to those locations. As it stands, the city has no specific regulations or zoning explicitly for food trucks. Mobile vendors are regulated under the city’s “itinerant vendor” category, which applies to any type of mobile vendor, and are allowed anywhere other food services are, though there’s no
The Jamaican Jerk Pan at 4th Avenue and Cannon Street in Browne’s Addition has met confusing and unclear regulations during its first year in operation. young kwak photo
42 INLANDER MAY 2, 2013