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San Diego’s food truck regulations pose a serious threat to breweries and the delicious bites we’ve grown accustomed to while enjoying our craft beer.
Part of the San Diego craft brewery experience is the variety of food trucks you’ll find parked outside. Many breweries coordinate and advertise the location of food trucks through social media. High-end, expertly crafted beers like a Hess Brewing Company Ex Umbris or a Thorn Street Brewery Agave Amber pair perfectly with a creative and mobile culinary experience.
In fact, San Diego has become known for this scene: exceptional beer and food trucks pushing the limits of meals on wheels, so much so that we now have roughly 75 food trucks in San Diego County.
Unfortunately, the city’s new food truck regulations could have a disastrous effect on all this. While I understand the health and safety needs for some regulation, these laws are overbroad efforts to protect very specific high-density restaurant areas.
First, a bit of good news: If a brewery is located in an industrial zone or certain commercial business parks, food trucks are permitted to operate on the property without a permit. So business there will go on as usual.
For breweries outside of those areas, though, things are about to get much more difficult and expensive. Certain agencies still need to sign off, but here’s what the new regulations dictate:
• Food trucks will be allowed in city streets, but with myriad restrictions including the number of parking spaces a truck can occupy, and the distance the truck must park away from crosswalks and intersections.
• Food trucks will not be allowed in most of the Gaslamp District or Little Italy, except in connection with special events (which need their own permits).
• Food trucks operating within 300 feet of a dwelling unit will face curfews: 10 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. This probably won’t cause too many problems. Unlike bars, breweries generally close around 11 p.m. on weekends.
• Non-exempt commercial properties hosting food trucks will be required to obtain one-year permits costing between $491 and $935 for each location.
• In beach cities such as Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach and La Jolla, food trucks won’t be permitted to operate within two to three blocks of the ocean and in certain “parking-impacted areas” like San Diego State University, University of California, San Diego and University of San Diego.
• Food trucks won’t be able to sell merchandise or alcohol.
Other miscellaneous hurdles for food trucks would include bathroom requirements, sidewalk and parking regulations and cleaning protocols.
The sidewalk and parking regulations would be especially difficult for breweries if trucks serving their customers park on city streets. Many breweries in urban areas like North Park might not have the newly required width of sidewalk or parking space next to their locations.
The food truck “fight” has generally been framed as restaurants versus food trucks, but we haven’t given enough credence to craft breweries’ reliance on food trucks. Breweries throughout the county should take note of what the city’s trying to do.
Limiting food trucks this way is a bad idea. Yes, they should be properly regulated to account for the health and safety of customers, and yes, they should pay their fair share of taxes. But the City Council used a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
We should learn from other big cities like Los Angeles, where food trucks aren’t so heavily regulated. Research based on L.A.’s mobile food vendors showed the trucks increased pedestrian activity and traffic in nearby restaurants.
In its January report to City Council, the planning commission noted: “Local food truck businesses are a part of an emerging local industry of creative and cutting edge food cuisine that has helped to create an active and social pedestrian environment in communities throughout the industry.”
That “emerging local industry” includes craft breweries, which are also “creative and cutting edge.” To avoid undue harm to one of San Diego’s fastest growing and most popular industries, members of City Council should revisit these regulations to ensure breweries don’t become casualties in the battle between restaurants and food trucks.
Amanda Allen is the founder and managing attorney at Aguirre Allen Law, with a focus on business and real estate transactions and litigation. She specializes in craft breweries. Allen’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.