The long-ridiculed and extremely restrictive regulations on food trucks in Houston have been revised in at least one major way.
Until now, food trucks using propane in the Texas Medical Center and the Central Business District downtown have been required to have a fire marshal on hand in order to operate their business. In a push to promote the city's food trucks, Mayor Annise Parker made an administrative change — meaning it did not require approval from Houston City Council — which will allow propane-fueled trucks (using containers of propane up to 60 pounds) to operate in those same areas without the need for fire marshal supervision.
"If you're one of the hundreds of thousands of Houstonians that follow food truck culture in Houston, this is an important step forward."
For Houston's ever-growing food truck community — and the eaters who love them — this is huge news. And Parker announced it with pride in a Friday press conference.
"It gives us a chance to broaden our spectrum in terms of where we're able to go," says Joshua Martinez of The Modular food truck. "We're able to go anywhere in the city now without any sort of regulations or something stopping us from being there. We've already been contacted by different property managers, both downtown and in the Medical Center, to have us come down and be part of the area."
Expanding the city's food truck range is something the council considered nearly two years ago, although the issue was hotly contested and tabled until 2014. The mayor made sure to highlight just how many people frequent Houston's food trucks, emphasizing the importance of such a regulatory change.
"If you're one of the hundreds of thousands of Houstonians that follow food truck culture in Houston, this is an important step forward," Parker said during the press conference held in front of the Houston Public Library's downtown branch. "One of the reasons that people come to Houston these days is because we have one of the hottest foodie scenes in America.
"We have great, talented chefs and we have wonderful restaurants. We need to put our best foot forward and now that best foot forward can also be in downtown and the medical center."
Although the move is an important one for Houston's food trucks, some opponents say the change — which took effect Sept. 19 — means that brick-and-mortar establishments will now face increased competition from mobile eateries. Alex Vassilakidis, co-owner of long-time food truck and restaurant Eatsie Boys, doesn't agree.
"Look at the amount of people that leave downtown for alternative dining options," Vassilakidis says. "I mean, we're just getting people into a routine of staying downtown."
Fellow Eatsie Boys co-owner Ryan Soroka describes the change as helping make "a level playing field and giving the people what they want."
"This is definitely a big day," Soroka said during the press conference. "We thank you (Mayor Parker) personally on behalf of all Houston food trucks and we thank the City of Houston for believing in us and supporting this burgeoning industry."
"There's a lot of fun and tasty times ahead."