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Sarasota County: Yes to Yum

Food truck owners in Sarasota County, Fl., scored a victory in 2016 after they teamed up with IJ to fight to reform some of the very worst food-truck laws in the country, bringing tasty opportunity to streets throughout the county. These laws previously included a proximity restriction that prohibited food trucks from operating within 800 feet of brick-and-mortar restaurants, as well as a prohibition on trucks operating within 750 feet of another truck.

Teaming up with two dozen food-truck owners from the SRQ Food Truck Alliance, IJ’s activism team offered training on how to be effective advocates for their cause.  For over a year, we worked closely with county officials to craft a law that would allow these popular roaming entrepreneurs the freedom to thrive and serve their eager customers.

In addition, IJ organized food truck rallies, which were attended by thousands; secured media coverage; and consistently reached out to and mobilized the public to ensure that their support for food trucks was being heard.

Ultimately, the County passed a bill that has some problematic provisions but overall is a big step in the right direction.  Trucks can now roam on private property; previously, all permits were site-specific.  Six new zoning districts have been opened up, and the 800-foot proximity restriction was eliminated, as well as the prohibition on trucks operating within 750 feet of each other.

Unfortunately, the bill maintains site-specific approval for permits on public property; but at the final hearing, we laid the groundwork for the county to re-visit this once they see the benefits of roaming.  And roaming is indeed necessary for the survival of food trucks: over the course of this prolonged debate, five trucks in Sarasota County closed their doors.

Overall, the ordinance is a huge improvement, and we look forward to monitoring the food truck scene and advocating for more reform in the future.

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