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Saving Honolulu’s food trucks: Phew!

Trucks escaped a death knell Thursday — but it’s not over yet


Posted March 2, 2012 by Mari Taketa

I don’t want to jinx anything, but the road ahead is looking a lot better for Honolulu’s food trucks after yesterday at the City Council (knock wood).

I know from your responses here, from dozens of retweets of my blog calling for support, and from text messages and emails that most of you want the trucks to survive. Here’s the rundown:

At issue: Whether the current law putting a 15-minute limit on doing business on city streets should be changed to up to three hours.

Every seat in the Transportation Committee hearing room was filled, almost entirely by truck owners and supporters. People stood along the walls; those who couldn’t get in watched on a TV screen in the hallway.

Testimony was all over the place, but the bottom line is nobody spoke against the trucks. The Hawaii Restaurant Association, whose members include food trucks, gave its support. A college student who said she can’t afford to eat at restaurants stated her generation’s support.

But the people heard loudest were truck owners. Wendy Awai, who owns Xtreme Taco and Fairycakes, told the committee she’s been asked to speak to students at Leeward middle and high schools. The topic: How to start a food truck. The students came up with the topic, she said, and she’ll tell them step by step what she did — but she won’t know the end of her story until the City Council decides.

Abe Jazzmin quit his mortgage officer job, put everything he had into Tiki Truck and had just paid off his bills the day he got cited for breaking the 15-minute law, which he didn’t know existed. At his court date Wednesday, prosecutors agreed to wait to see if the City Council changes the law. Their decision will determine whether he goes free or faces fines of up to $1,000 and/or up to 30 days in jail.

Kathy Sills owns Aloha Ice Cream Tricycle. She’s been cited three times, she says, has pulled her tricycle off city streets and is within two months of closing that and her brick-and-mortar Cafe and Tea Parlor at the Mission Houses Museum. She brought her 13-year-old son to the hearing so he could see his mom ask the City Council to change a law that hurts small businesses.

The Transportation Committee heard. They decided to move ahead with changes to the 15-minute law. They said it was urgent.

They even said the food trucks serve up pretty good food and they’re curious to try more.

So what’s next? Changing Bill 59 to relieve the stranglehold rolls ahead on its path to becoming law. But there’s no victory yet: The bill could still be killed by new opposition.

In the meantime, you can still call in or email your support. Here’s the info:

Call: Office of Breene Harimoto, City Council Transportation Committee chairman, 808-768-5008. Say you support the amendment of Bill 59 on food trucks.

Email: gmurayama@honolulu.gov, jtachibana@honolulu.gov, gkim@honolulu.gov, AND bharimoto@honolulu.gov. Say you support the amendment of Bill 59 on food trucks.

On March 21st, Bill 59 comes up at a community hearing at the City Council. Please keep up your support.

Right now, if all goes well, the new law would take effect in May, as I understand. That’s a long, long time for Aloha Ice Cream and other trucks to stay off city streets. If you see them, and you’re hungry, please pull over.

Photos courtesy of @PhotoluluTV and Sean Nakamura; food truck graphic courtesy of @MikeSumida

Comments


  1. Annoddah_Dave
    Posted March 2, 2012 at 6:58 am

    EO:  Small business, be it truck or cottage, is the backbone of America.  That’s part of the society upon which this country’s economy was built.  It is was makes our country great, everyone can dream of starting their own destiny and seeing it fulfilled.  Am surprised the Outdoor Circle hasn’t waged in and complain about truck signage and how it ruins the landscape of our City streets.

  2. Posted March 2, 2012 at 8:20 am

    I was so glad that I was able to watch at least the end of the meeting on Olelo TV’s live Internet feed.  Unfortunately, I missed the beginning so I wasn’t able to see the testimony from HPD and the Restaurant Association, but it seems like there wasn’t any real opposition to this amendment.  I can sort of understand Councilman Garcia’s reservations with the amendment but was encouraged that he still understood that the bill as it stands now definitely needs to be changed.
     
    I will definitely try to tune in again on the 21st, so long as there is an Internet feed to watch again.  In the mean time, I hope that the food truck owners are able to make do with alternate locations to allow them to continue serving customers.

  3. nonstopmari
    Posted March 2, 2012 at 11:43 am

     @Annoddah_Dave ad, if the amendments pass, u shd open a food truck. w/ ur appetite for the trucks and good eating in general, i’d line up on the sidewalk!

  4. nonstopmari
    Posted March 2, 2012 at 11:44 am

     @WERUreo props to u for tuning in and following the issue from all the way across the country! pls keep knocking wood, and asking anybody u know to call or email.

About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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