April 30–LARGO — Let’s say you’re a business owner, and you want to invite a food truck to sell some tacos in your parking lot.
In the city of Largo, the only way to do so is through a temporary event permit each time. But the city is now in the process of drafting new regulations that would allow food trucks to operate year-round. It’s a move some city officials say would open Largo to more of the mobile eateries that have come to frequent festivals and park outside breweries across the Tampa Bay area.
“My goal was just to kind of ease the process of getting food trucks in the city of Largo,” said Commissioner Jamie Robinson, who proposed reexamining the rules.
Food trucks already have to obtain either a business tax receipt if they’re based in Largo or register as a vendor if not. That wouldn’t change under the proposed rules.
The rest of the process would happen in two steps. The city would review the site where the food truck would be parked, a public safety move to make sure the truck isn’t blocking a fire lane or exit, said community development director Carol Stricklin.
The food truck operator would also have to provide proof of a fire inspection, either by Largo Fire Rescue or another department. The latter is already required by the state.
With both those things in place, the food truck is good to go as long as the operator has permission from the property owner to be there.
Event permits would likely still be required for larger events, such as food truck rallies that have several trucks clustered together. Permits are not required for private events.
The city doesn’t have much of a food truck market outside special events, but one spot that regularly hosts them is Arkane Aleworks, a brewery on E Bay Drive. Joe Scheibelhut, a co-owner and co-brewer, said the process would streamline their operation.
“We enjoy food trucks, and we would like to work with them even more in the future,” he said. “They’re a big part of the craft beer culture.”
Largo’s proposed rules seem reasonable, said Maggie Loflin, president of the Gulf to Bay Food Truck Association, which represents about 50 food trucks. Compared to other cities, the vendor registration fee comes in cheap at $10.
“It’s great they’re putting some sort of ordinance in place,” said Loflin, who also owns Maggie on the Move, a Mediterranean fusion truck. “Hopefully more businesses … will want to use food trucks.”
However, Michael Blasco of Tampa Bay Food Trucks, a business that books and organizes events, questioned why the city needed to get involved at all.
Aside from a few rules about where food trucks can set up shop and how long they can sit at one location, he didn’t see the point of doubling up on what the state already does, especially in such a low-demand market.
“They’re putting all these things in place, and you’re talking about one of the least-traveled markets that they (food trucks) go to,” Blasco said.
Mayor Woody Brown said that’s something the city is trying to change. Largo has long been on a quest to develop a livable, walkable downtown in the W Bay Drive corridor.
“Down the road,” Brown said, “I hope that food trucks do see a market here.”
Contact Kathryn Varn at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kathrynvarn.
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