Shawnee wants to climb aboard the nationwide food truck trend and become known as a city friendly to food trucks.
While the city’s current regulations allow food trucks, the Shawnee City Council committee recently listened to truck owners’ suggestions on how to make it easier for food trucks to operate within the city.
Their suggestions will be incorporated into proposed revisions that will be considered by the council later this year.
Food trucks are currently allowed to operate in Shawnee. They are not licensed by the city; however, a license is required from the state.
City planner Paul Chaffee said revisions would address whether to charge food truck owners for a business license. “If we decide to go ahead with that, we would probably do it annually rather on an even-to-event basis,” he said.
While Shawnee currently does not require food trucks to obtain a special event permit for city-sponsored events and private events, special event permits are required to operate on private property at events open to the public. Private property owners are restricted to obtaining two special event permits annually.
Chaffee said regulations would be revised to clarify when a special event permit is required. Additionally, stipulations will be included on where food trucks can park when not in use.
Food truck owners said at the council meeting that Shawnee’s current regulations are confusing. For example, Joe and Chris Ireland of Shawnee, owners of Crave Food Truck, said they have been turning down Shawnee business owner’s requests for food truck service because they believed it would require a special event permit.
“We just tell them no because we don’t want our food truck being there to constitute one of the two special event permits they are allowed annually,” said Chris Ireland.
City Manager Carol Gonzales said a special event permit is not required for food trucks serving people at a private site, such as serving lunch in a business park. “A special event permit is only required for events open to the public,” she said.
Paula Sayles, owner of Smokin’ Fresh Streetside BBQ food truck, said food truck owners want to work with local cities. “It’s not an adversarial relationship,” she said. “But cities regulations are hard to find and can be confusing.”
Shawnee could benefit from food trucks if properly used, she added. Citizens can enjoy a variety of food options ranging from funnel cakes and barbecue to Mexican favorites such as tacos and nachos. The city receives sales tax money from all food truck sales, she added.
Other Johnson County cities allow food trucks to operate under certain conditions, including Olathe, Lenexa, Overland Park and Merriam.
Olathe recently passed an ordinance allowing food trucks, said Olathe spokesman Tim Danneberg. The city has regulations regarding the distance food trucks can operate from existing restaurants.
Lenexa is in the process of developing food truck regulations, but in the meantime has held two “Food Truck Frenzy” events with up to 12 food trucks participating. A third event is scheduled for lunchtime on Sept. 25, said Beccy Yocham, director of community development.
“We elected to have the Food Truck Frenzy events prior to the adoption of regulations as a learning experience, so we could identify any potential concerns that should be addressed in our forthcoming regulations,” Yocham said. “Our experience with both events was very positive and we did not identify any potential concerns or pitfalls through the events.”
In Overland Park, food trucks may operate at private events by invitation only. When selling to the public, food truck owners are required to obtain a special event permit.
The city of Merriam features local food trucks every Sunday at a “Summer Sundays” event held from 4:30 to 7:30 in the Merriam Marketplace, 5740 Merriam Drive. In addition to food trucks, the event features live music and children’s activities.