Up until recently, Kyle Bass and other Hattiesburg food truck owners may have felt a little apprehensive about setting up shop, as the city previously required mobile businesses to operate under a transient vendor ordinance that left somewhat of a gray area in some matters.
On Jan. 19, however, Hattiesburg City Council approved a new version of the ordinance that is designed to be more business-friendly to food trucks – in particular, allowing them to operate year-round rather than the six months allotted under the transient ordinance.
“It’ll help myself and others lean more toward being above board, because in areas like this, you have trucks and trailers that feel like they can’t really be open and be honest about where they’re going to be and when they’re going to be there,” said Bass, who owns the Art of Roux food truck in downtown. “Previously, there was a lot of (uncertainty) about whether you were just popping up here today, or what if you were just going to be there tomorrow – did you have to go through all this?
“There were just a lot of unanswered questions, and I think this kind of nips it in the bud and says this is where you can set up and this is how you can set up. I think it’ll make it easier on the owners and operators to come forward and be transparent, and it will also be more appealing to folks who are thinking about getting a truck or trailer in town.”
In addition to allowing year-round operation, the new ordinance allows food trucks to park on private property in all business and industrial zones, and they may locate in R-3 (multi-family residential zones as approved by the city’s Urban Development Department. Written permission from the property owner must be provided prior to site approval.
Units may operate between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. every day, and must be parked on a hard surface such as concrete or asphalt. Trucks may not function as drive-throughs.
A generator may be used in accordance with the city’s existing noise ordinance, and operators also can tie in existing private electrical services with permission and review by the city’s building inspector.
Other utilities, such as water and sewer, must be internal to the unit.
“While food trucks have been around in other communities, they’re relatively new to our area,” Ward 1 Councilman Jeffrey George said. “So having a policy in place that gives some flexibility – but also has some structure as to where food trucks can operate and how that process looks – will make it easier for businesses to come forward and be successful.”
Food truck owners will need to contact organizers at special events such as HubFest and Live at Five to obtain permission to vend at those events. A food truck location must ensure adequate access for customers – including American with Disabilities Act access – and must not impede emergency responders or alter traffic circulation.
There is an annual permit fee of $250, and annual renewals are due on Jan. 1. Permit fees for applications received after July 1 will have a pro-rated fee of $125. A privilege tax license also is required and is a separate fee.
Permits may be applied for with the city’s Planning Division. The required documentation to accompany the permit is included on the permit application.
“I feel great (about the new ordinance); I feel like the city did a fantastic job of really lending their ears to us as food truck owners and food trailer operators in this town,” Bass said. “I think they really did a good job of hearing all of our opinions, because it was pretty much an open floor where they took their old draft and edited it and emailed it all to us a couple of months before.
“So it gave us plenty of time, individually, to go through and look at it, and then a couple of months later, to all meet up as a group to discuss it. I think it’s going to be well-received by other truck and trailer operators in town, for sure.”