Utah cities are becoming more food truck-friendlyJan 06, 2023 10:37AM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart
A new city ordinance will make it easier for more food trucks to participate in events like Food Truck Mondays at Sandy’s Amphitheater Park. (Photo courtesy The Food Truck League)
The Salt Lake area isn’t usually thought of as a top food truck destination, but that might now change thanks to a new state law.
House Bill 146 became effective in May and restricts the ability of a city or county to require a separate business license if the food truck owner already has a valid license in another Utah community. In other words, it requires food truck owners to obtain a business license from just one city—not every single municipality or county they want to operate in. Communities around the state are gradually amending their codes to be in compliance.
Melissa Anderson from the Community Development Department presented related code amendments to the Sandy City Council on Oct. 25.
“In lieu of a Sandy City business license, mobile food business owners may submit a business license from another political subdivision in the state,” Anderson said. “The proposed amendments make it easier to operate a mobile food business in Sandy, consistent with a new state law.”
Among other changes, food truck owners will also not be required to disclose financial information or pay additional fees above the actual cost of processing the neighboring business license. The Planning Commission forwarded a positive recommendation, and the amendments were approved at the Sandy City Council meeting Nov. 15.
“The impact will be big,” said Taylor Harris, a founding partner and general manager of The Food Truck League, a network of gourmet food trucks in Utah. In addition to organizing events, the League works to promote, lobby and advocate for the industry.
Harris has been part of a four-year-long process begun by then-Sen. (now Lieutenant Governor) Deirdre Henderson and the Libertas Institute to create a “food truck freedom” law to reduce regulations.
“Sen. Henderson brought everyone to the table,” Harris said. “What was happening was every city was doing a policy that made sense in isolation, but the compounding effects—the way we’re organized geographically in Utah—it was just killing trucks and stopping them from being able to run their businesses. So, we came up with a framework, we tried out a couple different things, and that’s evolved over the last several years and we’ve gotten to this place that’s really a happy home where it works for everybody.”
Harris said the original law has been tested and improved to the point where now it has become a model for other states.
A statement on the Libertas Institute’s website says that the new law is fair since other businesses, including catering companies, are not required to obtain licenses in each city in which they operate.
Though it will take time for every community to amend city codes to reflect the law like Sandy has, Harris believes it has already had a big impact in the day-to-day business of food truck owners and operators.
“Most of the cities we work with are working on it,” Harris said. “In practice they’re implementing it and working on formalizing it. I think for cities there’s this balance. They don’t want to lose control over protecting their public, and at the same time, they’re busy. They don’t want duplication any more than we do. They just want to make sure that everything is safe and taken care of, and I think this law addressed that concern.”
The Food Truck League held its first public event in May 2015 and has hosted events throughout the valley ever since, including Food Truck Mondays at Sandy Amphitheater Park, 1245 E. 9400 South.
“We work with Sandy to do their event at the amphitheater,” Harris said. “It has been a great event, but this will make it easier to bring a wider variety of trucks in. Now we can pull from all the best trucks Utah has to offer, instead of just the best trucks registered in Sandy.”
The League counts over 300 distinct food trucks in its network. Harris recommends visiting the League’s site www.thefoodtruckleague.com/food-trucks/trucks/ to find food trucks all year long.
“Anyone that knows restaurants knows that’s a hard business,” Harris said. “They don’t do it for money, they do it for love. So to give them tools to be more successful is really exciting. And this legislation allows the regulatory environment to help our creators get out there and not get shut down due to signing paper work over and over again.”