Repairing Virginia Beach food truck laws: Not stopped, but not speeding along either

George Stepanovich owns the Bagel Baker restaurant, but also owns this food truck by the same name. The law that governs food trucks in Virginia Beach prohibited an employee at Stepanovich's restaurant from working on his food truck due to a blemish on the employee's background check (Courtesy of The Bagel Baker)
George Stepanovich owns the Bagel Baker restaurant. He also owns this food truck by the same name. (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of The Bagel Baker)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The city is slowly working toward writing new ordinances to govern its food trucks, says City Councilwoman Jessica Abbott, who is leading the effort to change the law.

Abbott hoped to have City Council vote on the new ordinances by Memorial Day; but the vetting process, along with the concerns of other members of City Council have delayed the process, Abbott said.

Abbott and City Councilman Bobby Dyer created a subcommittee in January to improve the ordinances that govern food trucks with the aim of creating a new classification for the businesses.

The subcommittee includes food truck and restaurant owners, members of the process improvement committee, as well as staff from the zoning and city attorney’s offices.

“So we have stakeholders that are exclusively restaurant owner, exclusively food truck owners, and some that are both,” Abbott said.

MJ Medlar, leader of Eat the Streets 757, a Hampton Roads food truck association, said starting a food truck business and operating in the city is very difficult, and a lot of that has to do with the city ordinances that currently govern food trucks.

Related story: Virginia Beach law serves up headaches for food truck owners

“We’re treated very differently than restaurants,” said Medlar, who owns “Capt’n Crabby” food truck.

Currently, food truck owners are classified as “peddlers” and are subject to regulations originally intended for ice cream trucks, such as criminal background checks on drivers.

Abbott said her goal is to make food truck laws more consistent with laws and make it easier to operate them in Virginia Beach.

After Abbott and Deputy City Attorney Beverly Wilson provided an impromptu update to City Council on July 10, Vice Mayor Jim Wood requested that the food truck ordinances be reviewed by City Council before it goes to the planning commission.

Wood cited issues that council has had with recent short-term rental recommendations from the planning commission. This caused the planning commission’s discussion on the food trucks scheduled for Wednesday to be pushed back to Sept. 12.

Abbott said typically it would go to planning first, but she doesn’t think it really matters in the end.

“I think this is going to pass,” Abbot said. “I do think that allowing food trucks at the Oceanfront is going to lead to some contention, but my personal opinion is that everyone has the right to earn a living, and the Oceanfront should not be excluded from that.”

During City Council’s next meeting Tuesday, Wilson will formally brief council members on the proposed ordinances.

For more information, here’s Wilson’s summary and draft of the ordinance.

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