Cincinnati Food Truck Alliance pushing new policies surrounding industry

When Cafe de Wheels first started its food truck operations in December 2009 there wasn't much to know.  Owner Thomas Acito was left to negotiate locations for his truck throughout downtown Cincinnati during its busy and crowded lunch hours.  Since that time Senor Roy's Taco Patrol and Gold Star Chili's 'Chilimobile' have joined the fold, and Taco Azul will be entering in the food truck scene later this summer.

The ambiguity of public policy surrounding food truck vending in Cincinnati has been the primary focus of the newly formed Cincinnati Food Truck Alliance headed up by Cafe de Wheels' Acito and supported, in part, by Taco Azul's Gary Sims.

"I have read nothing yet that seems to clearly state where you can and can not operate," Sims explained.  "There have even been cases where the police have been involved and even they didn't seem to know."

Last week,City Council member Laure Quinlivan proposed three city-owned "mobile food vendor" locations throughout downtown Cincinnati that would help further accommodate the growing popularity of food trucks within Cincinnati's crowded city center.  Presently food trucks are not allowed to park on the streets in downtown Cincinnati during busy lunch hours.  As a result, Cafe de Wheels and Senor Roys are often found on the periphery of downtown Cincinnati where they can park on private property.

"I want to increase the vitality of our street life and spread activity from Fountain Square to other parts of downtown," Quinlivan stated. "I think giving mobile food vendors a few key areas to do business will help accomplish that. This is also an avenue for talented chefs to start a small business."

The three locations proposed by Quinlivan would support between 10 to 20 mobile food truck vendors depending on configuration and size, and would be located so that they would not compete with existing restaurants.  To secure a spot, vendors would have to get a permit from the City and could then set up operations at the foot of the Purple People Bridge, the City-owned parking lot at 6th and Race streets, or on Court Street a half-block east of Vine Street.  Permits would cost between $400 to $800 depending upon the size of the food truck.

"The pricing is very fair compared with what is being charged at private lots, and we still have the right to go to any private lot of our choice," Sims stated.  "We will learn as we go, but as long as City Council is willing to adjust it will be good, and as far as I'm concerned it's a good pilot program."

The plan was well received by most in attendance at the meeting last week, with most in attendance encouraging Councilmembers to come up with policies that bring more food trucks to Cincinnati's center city.

Cincinnati's existing and future food trucks are best tracked online either through their Twitter accounts, or by checking their respective websites and Facebook pages.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
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