Why is Houston the only major city in the country that bans propane-equipped food trucks from operating Downtown — and one of the few that prohibits all food trucks from serving near seating areas or even setting up their own chairs for customers? A few clues appear in Katherine Shilcutt’s fascinating account of Tuesday’s city hearing, during which council members expressed a few concerns: that food-truck purveyors might be selling “other items” on the sly, or that there might not be a sufficient number of city inspectors to police the existing fleet. But, Shilcutt reports, “The questions got even stranger when Council Member Andrew Burks began hinting at the possibility of terrorists using food trucks’ propane tanks as weapons, a comment that prompted laughter from the audience.”
The possibility of overfueled taco trucks blowing up Downtown Houston, however, wasn’t the only frightening specter Burks conjured up before the mostly mobile-food-friendly crowd:
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“Parking is at a premium downtown. It’s not easy. Restaurants pay these dollars and cents to keep their doors open…but these food trucks are not regulated by anyone. We’re talking about competition here — there’s no competition here. There’s danger here. If it were competition and only competition, it wouldn’t be dangerous. So what I’m saying is that I don’t like this at all. . . . I went to Washington D.C. in March this year and saw food trucks lined up and hundreds of people were lined up inside the park buying their food. And the trucks were not even the same. It looked like one raggedy truck and one nice truck and another raggedy, small truck. Is this what we want in downtown Houston? Is this the way we want our city to look? Is this the way we want to see our city at baseball games or at sporting events? Is this what we want to make our city look like?”
Burks long comment prompted a chorus of “Yes!” to ring out from the audience, at which point I was sure that the Council was going to start kicking people out. Mercifully, it was the last outburst of the day.
- Terrorist Attacks, Drugs and Danger: Why City Council Doesn’t Want Food Trucks Downtown [Eating Our Words]
- Previously on Swamplot: Mobile Food Vendors Mobilize, Why There Isn’t More Street Food in Houston
Photo: Ry Cayari