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Key West Food Trucks Get New Rules Proposal

Nancy Klingener

When two new eateries on wheels opened in Key West this year, the city's code enforcement officers cited them, saying they had not received approval to operate in the historic district known as Old Town.

But a magistrate dismissed those cases, because the city didn't have any rules that govern food trucks.

That could change soon, as a 16-page proposed ordinance gets its first airing this week in front of the city's Planning Commission. The commission will make a recommendation to the city commission, which must approve any new rules before they take effect.

The food truck trend, which has been going strong on the mainland for more than a decade, has finally reached the end of the road.

"There's been a lot of requests for the ability to develop food truck food sales," said City Planning Director Don Craig. "But under our present ordinance, they're considered restaurants. The definition found in the code presently is any establishment serving food in a ready-to-eat state is a restaurant."

Under the proposed rules, food trucks would be required to:

  • Get a $1,250 annual permit from the city
  • Only operate on private property in the commercial district
  • Operate only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Provide written proof of access to a nearby bathroom for employees if the truck is in one place for more than two hours
  • Have a commissary kitchen offsite for storage, equipment cleaning and waste disposal - and the kitchen could not be in a private home
  • Undergo inspection from the city's fire marshal
  • Operate at least 100 feet away from any licensed restaurant
  • Be no larger than 8 by 20 feet

"We have to be careful," Craig said. "If a food truck pulled up to a parking lot next to a restaurant and was serving food 12 hours a day without having to pay impact fees, is that fair for the brick and mortar restaurant right next door?"
Craig said the trucks, including their signs, will also need to get approval from the city's historic district planner or historic review commission.

"Otherwise, you could have kind of a circus atmosphere with these things all over the place," he said. Already, the city is hearing from would-be food truck entrepreneurs.

"One guy wanted to make a food truck shaped like an orange 10 feet in diameter and plant it somewhere in the historic district," Craig said.

The Planning Board meets at 6 p.m. Thursday at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St.