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Ban On Food Trucks Serving Chow In Riverside County Being Lifted

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

Restrictions against food trucks in Riverside County from selling fried, barbecued, broiled, grilled or other items prepared on wheels may be repealed by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries in June proposed eliminating provisions in Ordinance No. 580, which limits food trucks to selling only packaged foods, ice cream, roasted nuts and steam-cooked hot dogs. Jeffries called the restrictions anti-business and anti-competitive, noting that in neighboring Los Angeles and Orange counties, no such prohibitions exist.

The county Department of Environmental Health and county lawyers drew up amendments to the ordinance that would, pending the supervisors' approval, free mobile food operators to dramatically expand their menus, offering chicken, burgers, steaks and other meaty treats.

An introduction to the revised ordinance states that operators would be permitted to engage in "full service food preparation and sales on a daily basis."

"The proposed changes will provide expanded business opportunities for mobile food operations within the county," documents said.

Under the amended ordinance, mobile food vendors would be classified according to what they sell. The key change in the law would be the addition of a designation for "mobile food preparation unit," or food truck.

The full-service trucks would be required to undergo inspections by county health officials and obtain annual permits. Operators would have to ensure staff have food handler certification specified under the California Health & Safety Code. All trucks would have to be supplied by a central "commissary," where supplies and products are stored. Commissaries would have to meet sanitation standards defined by the state and obtain annual permits, according to documents.

Trucks would be letter-graded, same as brick-and-mortar restaurants. Any facility that fails to achieve an "A" -- 90 percent or better -- during a routine inspection would be given five business days to correct deficiencies. According to the ordinance, if issues aren't resolved by the time of the second inspection, an operator would be subject to penalties ranging from $50 to $1,000, depending on the number of offenses.

Operator permits could also be revoked. Any non-permitted food truck operator caught doing business in the county could face misdemeanor charges.

When the board first discussed making changes to Ordinance 580, Supervisors Jeff Stone and John Benoit both expressed concerns about food trucks stripping business away from brick-and-mortar establishments. Stone was especially worried about mobile vendors setting up near wineries, potentially marring the image of what the supervisor calls the "jewel" of Riverside County -- the Temecula Valley Wine Country.

Under the revised ordinance, food trucks would be allowed to operate in any unincorporated community and within the county's 28 cities. However, cities would retain discretion over "time, place, manner" and zoning restrictions that block mobile vendors from selling in certain locations. --City News Service

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