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Dallas to Consider Expanding Food Truck Ordinance

The Romeros food trailer parked in Waxahachie in November 2020EXPAND
The Romeros food trailer parked in Waxahachie in November 2020
Taylor Adams
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Dallas’ food truck ordinance is getting another look by the city.

It’s a long time coming, as many know that while food trucks can be great, the city hasn’t always made it easy to have them.

And if you’re a restaurant owner who wants a food trailer, you might have better luck in a neighboring city.

Kim Finch, owner of Double Wide, Single Wide and Thunderbird Station, briefly had one at her Deep Ellum bar.

“I tried to do some of [the Thunderbird] menu at Double Wide: I tried to turn that trailer into a little food trailer,” she said. “But it didn’t fly because you could have a food truck, but you can’t have a food trailer.”

If things go a certain way on the Dallas City Council, maybe she could liven up that space again.

Chad West, council member for North Oak Cliff, announced Thursday that he is calling for industry members to provide feedback in an effort to gather more information for when the item finally lands on an agenda.

A memorandum signed by five council members was sent to Mayor Eric Johnson’s office Nov. 9, requesting an item to appear on the council’s agenda before the end of 2020 about the food truck ordinance.

That has yet to happen, partly because city staff has been acquiring data from other cities’ best practices for food trailers and food service from shipping containers.

Food trailers can be quite fun: We recently went to one in Waxahachie and became wistful for it to come to Dallas.

“The food trailer is not as big of a deal, not the problem in terms of the hold-up; the hold-up is the shipping container, it’s a little more foreign,” West says.

Of course, it makes sense food service out of a shipping container would be unfamiliar to most Dallasites. Either way, they can send their suggestions about the current food truck ordinance to the council member (with the subject line “Food Trailers”) to share their opinions and experiences.

Portland, Oregon, did a report on food trailers (or carts) in 2013 outlining their effects.

Among the findings, “food carts have positive impacts on street vitality and neighborhood life in lower-density residential neighborhoods as well as in the high-density downtown area.”

Better Block came to council members West and Adam Bazaldua about this last fall, after looking at an opportunity to activate an area of the Forest District in South Dallas.

“We originally had started with an open streets concept to help kick off transformative work in the Forest District. When it was supposed to get going, the pandemic hit, and we weren’t comfortable pushing forward community gathering events,” says Kristin Leiber, senior project manager for Better Block.

They then looked at the economic distress from the pandemic, noting the number of vendors who lost income with the closing of the State Fair of Texas — then they coupled that with the number of vacant lots in the area.

“There were not affordable, low-barrier-to-entry food vendors for Dallas,” Leiber says. “The purpose behind these changes is to keep those barriers to entry low, making it an affordable option for restaurateurs who have been forced to close or unemployed chefs or people with great food who aren’t ready to make the dive into a $200,000 food truck or a five-year lease, but they could spend $25,000 outfitting a food trailer.”

Better Block pulled Austin’s policy around this topic and compared it to Dallas for city staff to review. West hopes that by the time it hits the committee, the proposed policy will be mostly in final form.

So perhaps we could see it on the council agenda by March and, who knows, be grabbing food from a cute trailer in Dallas sooner than we think.

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