Published Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012 | 2:40 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012 | 5:08 p.m.
Only 150 feet separated Las Vegas City Council members Wednesday afternoon, but the distance was enough to kill a proposal to create a distance requirement for mobile food trucks from stationary restaurants.
After three votes failed — one to change nothing in the city code, one to create a distance of 150 feet, and another to create a distance of 300 feet — the matter was tabled and will likely return to the council at a future meeting.
After more than two hours of debate, council members could not agree on a distance requirement, a proposal developed after months of meetings between city staff, mobile truck vendors and restaurant owners.
Existing law has no distance requirement but does not allow food trucks to park in public rights of way.
Before the vote, the owner of a Roberto’s restaurant at Nellis Boulevard and Eastern Avenue said three food trucks flanked his restaurant, selling tacos and burritos at cut rates. An employee wept, saying her hours had been cut from 40 to 20 per week because of the lost business.
Arguing against any change, Councilman Steve Ross said restaurants and food trucks attract different types of customers so he saw no conflict.
“In my mind, they’re two different customers,” he said. “I can’t imagine one of these putting a Roberto’s out of business.”
The city, he added, needs “to protect the food vendors. The markets rely on being free to grow and expand … it is hard for me to interfere with that free market and free enterprise.”
However, downtown Councilman Bob Coffin didn’t see eye to eye with Ross, saying the city proposal was not “an infringement on personal liberty or an antitrust action.”
“I strongly disagree this is against a new burgeoning business,” he said. “(Food trucks) are just going in there and taking the cream of the crop, not in every instance but enough.”
Councilman Ricki Barlow, whose district includes the redeveloping East Fremont Street corridor, said it would be unfair for the city to have lured brick-and-mortar businesses into that area, then allow food trucks to move in without regulation.
“We attracted the brick and mortar to invest their life savings,” he said.
Lois Tarkanian, whose ward is west of downtown, said she knew of a food truck vendor who was "paying nothing and is hooking into somebody else’s facility” for utilities.
“And I don’t think that’s fair to people who have invested more in the community,” she added.
Councilman Bob Beers abstained from all three votes because he is an investor in Mundos, a downtown restaurant in the World Market Center. Mayor Carolyn Goodman voted but disclosed that her husband, Oscar, for whom a downtown steakhouse is named, has an interest in the restaurant. City Attorney Brad Jerbic said Goodman could vote as the restaurant, situated in The Plaza casino, was not in a place that would be affected by food trucks no matter what distance was voted upon.
The three votes were as follows; The first vote was to adopt a distance of 150 feet, which failed 4-2, with Goodman and Councilman Stavros Anthony voting yes. A second vote was to do nothing, which failed 4-2 with Anthony and Ross voting yes. The last vote was for a 300-foot distance, which resulted in a tie. Coffin, Barlow and Tarkanian voted yes.