The committee that shaped Longview’s mobile food unit ordinance wants to amend the law.
The Mobile Food Vending Task Force’s proposed amendment seeks to prevent an unintended consequence of the ordinance passed in February, but stops short of loosening requirements to attract more food entrepreneurs to the city.
In a 5-2 vote Monday, the task force recommended Longview amend its food truck ordinance to avoid unintended consequences for some businesses.
The amendment would allow limited mobile food units — specifically Schwan’s Food Co. and other businesses that deliver prepackaged frozen foods — to operate commissaries outside the city limits. District 1 Councilman Ed Moore said Schwan’s and other prepackaged food companies fell under the ordinance, and starting Jan. 1 no longer would be allowed to operate in Longview without a local kitchen unless the ordinance were amended.
“They had already gotten their permit for 2016, so they were grandfathered for this year, so to speak,” Moore said, “but as of Dec. 31, those permits run out.”
The amendment, if approved, also would allow certain restricted food trucks — including those that serve products cooked outside the city to on-site industrial and manufacturing workers — to operate only in industrial zoning districts.
The Longview City Council on Dec. 8 will consider the recommendation for final approval, Moore said.
Among the task force members, traditional brick-and-mortar restaurateurs David Choy, Cathy Cace, Chuck King, Kevin Hawkins and Mike Kittner voted in favor of the amendment.
King said his foremost concern was public safety.
“It’s more than just storage, but there has to be some raw food and that type of thing (in commissaries),” King said.
Food truck owners Hank Guichelaar and Eric Dean voted against the recommendation. Guichelaar called the city’s commissary rules “un-American” because they limit free enterprise opportunities, and he wanted the amendment to go further.
“I don’t think safety is a real issue because you have restaurants outside the city that are inspected not by the city of Longview,” Guichelaar said.
Kittner said his restaurants in Kilgore and Hallsville receive health inspections and must meet state standards. He and other task force members said they worried about commissaries in unincorporated or other areas that don’t have the same frequency and health standards as restaurants and kitchens operating inside Longview city limits.
Monday was the first time the Mobile Food Vending Task Force met since last winter. Before the meeting, city staff had compiled data from the first seven months of the new ordinance for the task force to review. Community Services Director Laura Hill said that between March and September the city counted:
187 phone calls, emails and walk-in inquiries about requirements for operation.
64 inquiries that resulted in follow-up meetings.
Two unrestricted mobile food unit permits issued with a third permit close to issuance.
Five applicants who decided to operate outside the city limits under a state permit because of commissary requirement restrictions.
Six Longview restaurants with mobile food units that decided to provide only catering and work with temporary events.
29 prospective vendors who stated they would pursue state permits to operate within the county because of Longview’s fees and commissary requirements.
One applicant has said it would have cost her about $900 to complete the city’s permitting requirements, not including her overhead costs for building a commissary and buying or leasing property in Longview to place it.