Sometimes we like it inside, but sometimes we like it out on the street. As an urban campus, food trucks are important to us here at Drexel. They mean we get to eat what we like at a price we like it. They offer variety, flexibility, and a wide array of cultural cuisines. They rotate frequently, so frequently you’ll often be surprised by what you can find.
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell has introduced bill No. 150600, an amendment to the “Sidewalk Vendors in Neighborhood Business Districts” section of the city code, which will limit the total number of vendors on Drexel’s campus to 25, and are prohibiting vending at any but approved locations. What does this mean in practice? No more food trucks on 32nd Street, or north of Arch Street, and since it the amendment limits food truck operating hours, Insomnia Cookies will become Kind-of-Late-for-a-Weeknight Cookies. Ostensibly this amendment addresses concerns about pedestrian and crosswalk safety, as well as vendor licenses and inspections, but it completely neglects the culture that the University has developed around food trucks.
What the Editorial Board cannot understand about this amendment, is why is it needed? Certainly there is an issue with pedestrian safety at 32nd and Market Streets which is exacerbated by food trucks, but why revamp the whole system to get three food trucks to move? The amendment bans food trucks at that location, and also slaps them with a wide variety of new regulations, on what kind of generators they can use, additional inspections, guarantees that food trucks are roadworthy (sometimes a genuine concern for vendors on Ludlow between 31st and 32nd, potentially) and formal leases on allowed food truck spaces.
The amendment is also being pushed as a method to improve hygiene, but all trucks already have a food service license and are subject to regular health inspections, same as a restaurant kitchen. There is no need for more regulation here.
Right now we have a large selection of lightly-regulated food trucks that must compete in order to sustain customers, a facet of the system which acts as a sort of checks-and-balance system for quality. Long term licenses for vending spots would mean that food truck owners would have no incentive to improve. What’s the point if there’s no chance anyone can take their spot? We like our rotating, unpredictable, cheap and enormously varied food truck selection, thank you very much. We’re certainly not getting any of those at the Handschumacher Dining Center.
This amendment is an unnecessarily ham-fisted attempt to control food trucks in Drexel’s campus, and will only result in damage to our vibrant and popular food truck scene. The Editorial Board urges Philadelphia City Council to vote “no” on Bill No. 150600.