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Solving the Food Truck Issue in Spokane

The Spokane City Council recently and unanimously passed two ordinances licensing and regulating the burgeoning food truck industry in Spokane. Getting to this point, though, took some work.

That’s why we stepped in and helped bring the interested parties together to find a solution.

It all began when City of Spokane staff presented draft regulations for local food trucks to City Council on May 20. At the City Council meeting, representatives from 13 different food trucks banded together to oppose the ordinance. The Council postponed the ordinance for one month to work out the parts that brought disagreement.

Because this was a business issue, the Public Policy arm of Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) worked to connect the stakeholders, drive toward common ground among the parties and advocate for a positive solution that everybody could work with.

GSI’s Small Business Council discussed the different pieces of the regulations, how they fit together and what areas could be improved. Overall, there was a feeling of optimism toward a blossoming food truck industry in Spokane.

But after several public meetings, there were still disagreements on the proximity of food trucks to restaurants, the use of parking meters and the requirement that food truck owners receive permission from the property owner adjacent to them when operating on public right of way.

The City wanted the responsibility of obtaining and formally registering property owner permission to fall on individual food truck operators. The food trucks thought that permission of the adjacent property owner was unnecessary. Brick-and-mortar restaurants had questions about the distance food trucks could park from their establishment. Downtown businesses had questions about use of parking spots taken by food trucks that could be used for potential customers.

With a membership that includes food trucks, restaurants, retail, downtown property owners as well as our partnerships with the Downtown Spokane Partnership and City of Spokane, GSI was well positioned to facilitate good, open dialogue with these groups.

GSI convened a meeting on June 16, one week before the ordinance was to be voted on, to discuss solutions. In that meeting were representatives of the City of Spokane, the Greater Spokane Food Truck Association, the Spokane Restaurant Association and the Downtown Spokane Partnership. The conclusions of our discussion were presented before Council President Ben Stuckart and Council member Mike Allen, who led an efficient discussion of what changes needed to be made.

In the end, we left City Hall with our questions answered, issues settled and everyone was thankful for the cooperation of everyone involved.

This is one way GSI works – as we say – to “Create Something Greater.” When a business has a policy issue, we gather the information, get the right people in the room and work toward a sensible solution so all businesses can thrive.

*** What They’re Saying ***

“It is very comforting to know that our elected council members care enough to listen to our thoughts and be responsive to our needs. In the end, I think the final draft that was passed is a good example of what can be done when people voice their concerns and are willing to work together for a resolution. We believe that the ordinance was fair and most agreeable to all parties involved.”

     – Joile Forral, Couple of Chefs Catering

“At the end of the day, I see all restaurants, mobile or not, benefitting from this ordinance. We (GSFTA, City of Spokane, WRA, DSP, GSI) found a way of working around our differences and keeping the spirit of a lively downtown food culture alive. Only by continuing to work together are we, as an industry, going to make this city truly great and I believe we are well on our way!”

     – Clay K. Cerna, Dawn of the Donut

“The small business council was able to help facilitate a forum between food truck operators, restaurant owners, the DSP and the city and found a middle ground that would enable a framework that is fair for all involved and eliminates needless paperwork in the process. Our council has identified how important downtown Spokane is for attracting visitors and businesses to our region overall, and we agree that food trucks create a dynamic food culture that encourages innovation and starts a pipeline of new restaurants.”

     – Chris Reilly, Aezy, Small Business Council Chair

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