Food trucks in Exchange Place have become a mainstay for office workers over the last few years, but an uproar over big vendor fees quietly enacted by the city over the summer has caused a movement looking to modify the regulations following growing backlash.
During their August 14 meeting, the city council voted unanimously to remove York and Grand Streets from the Itinerant Food Vendor Parking Zone and create three new sections where food trucks are allowed to set up shop along different roads.
Zone 1 includes the south side of Sussex Street, Zone 2 encompasses the south side of Montgomery Street between Greene and Hudson Streets, while Zone 2-3 consists of the east side of Bergen Avenue between Sip Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard.
A separate ordinance establishing fees for those seeking food vendor parking within the zones has proven to be especially controversial. Also passed unanimously during the council’s July 17 meeting, the regulation charges vendors $40 a day to park on Sussex Street and $200 daily to operate along Montgomery Street’s zone.
The new parking zone rules took effect earlier this month, but the city has officially suspended the permit fees regulation through the end of October. That decision was due in part to an effort by several food truck owners, including Venti Italian Specialties, speaking out about the ordinance.
Government officials have taken notice. When asked about the controversy, City Council President Rolando Lavarro told Jersey Digs that there is an effort underway to modify the ordinance. In the meantime, food truck operators have asked Jersey City to suspend the new fees until the end of this year’s license period – April 30, 2020.
Lavarro says that request is fair given that the fees weren’t built into the business model of the food trucks, nor did they know this would be an expense when they acquired their current licenses. He says there is currently no timeline to get a modified ordinance on the books, but vows to get the issue settled before the upcoming license renewal period begins next year.
“I intend to speak with the other members of the Council about repealing the dedicated food truck spaces fees ordinance in its entirety with the goal of finding another solution,” Lavarro says. “We need a food truck program that serves the diverse needs and incomes of Jersey City’s residents, non-resident workers and guests that fairly protects the investments of food truck operators and those of the brick-and-mortar food establishments.”
The ongoing debate about food trucks, particularly those parked Downtown, comes as Exchange Place has seen a fair share of new eateries like the District Kitchen market open. What type of compromise emerges in the upcoming months remains to be seen, but the city will likely announce if they will further extend the suspension of the fees ordinance sometime later this month.