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Expanded Food Truck Rules Possible in Covington

The City of Covington is considering an expansion of its existing rules surrounding mobile food vendors, such as food trucks.

On Tuesday, the city commission saw a presentation of the proposed zoning text amendment and updated ordinance. 

"The current regulations in the zoning code are fairly stringent," said City Solicitor Michael Bartlett.

Those current regulations were a hot topic of debate back in 2012, when the idea was first floated. Some owners of traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants in the city expressed concern about the impact to their businesses - which are more expensive typically to operate - when newer businesses could just roll up and open. Ultimately, the city commission passed an ordinance unanimously and food truck-oriented events were scheduled around town such as at Covington Landing and the parking lot that was previously branded as Mad Lot at Seventh and Washington streets, which is now the site of Duveneck Square Apartments.

But that ordinance only allowed the operation of food trucks on private property from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in certain commercial zones. To operate a food truck separately from those locations and times, a special event permit was needed.

But that could change if approved in coming weeks by the city commission.

"We have heard from various people who want to bring food trucks for certain events or day-to-day operations, and this is our attempt to make that possible," Bartlett said.

If approved, mobile food vending operations would be able to operate in public right-of-ways and city-owned parking areas on Philadelphia Street in Mainstrasse Village between Fourth and Seventh streets; on Seventh Street between Washington Street and Madison Avenue (near Braxton Brewing Company); at the city-owned lot at Bill Cappel Sports Complex in Latonia; on Southern Avenue between Church Street and Caroline Avenue in Latonia; and on Main Street between West 11th Street to Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in the city's Westside neighborhood near the new Kenton County government building.

Food truck orders are taken at an event at Mad Lot in Covington in 2012 (RCN file)

The hours would also be adjusted to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Mobile food trucks would be permitted from setting up or parking in designated areas before 5:30 a.m. and would have to depart the designated premises by 10:30 p.m.

The permits for such operations would be issued yearly, Bartlett said, at a cost of $500.

10 percent of that fee would go to the City of Covington parking authority to cover potential lost revenue from any parking revenue lost to food trucks operating in paid parking spots.

There would be no limit on permits.

The pilot program, as Bartlett described it, would be used to see what works and what doesn't, he said.

Enforcement of the program could be somewhat loose.

"We don't have a food truck enforcement Grinch. I don't think we'll have one," Bartlett said. "I think there will be some self-policing on this by food trucks to make sure everyone is playing well together. Because if not, we could get rid of the program."

One other element that could be missing from Covington's proposed changes that are seen in other cities' similar legislation is a requirement on distance from a bricks-and-mortar restaurant.

The food truck regulations could receive a first reading at next week's city commission legislative meeting while the commission could also consider applying for a text amendment related to the changes, too.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Top photo: A food truck event at Covington Landing in 2012 (RCN file)