New Code Helps Murray Taste Utah’s “Buzz du Jour”
Residents wait for food truck. -Tyler Warren
The popularity of mobile food trucks has become something of a trend recently, exploding across the Wasatch Front in a matter of years. On July 19, the Murray City Council passed an ordinance that will make it easier for food truck owners to bring their fare to town.
The code now contains language to clearly define food trucks as “a self-contained vehicle designed to serve food.” This sets them apart from ice cream carts and other types of food vendors that are already well defined by the code.
The biggest change, however, was the decision to offer annual licenses to food truck owners.
“Prior to now food trucks were operating only under special event licenses or temporary business licenses. We found this was really burdensome,” said Jared Hall, director of Community and Economic Development.
The necessity of obtaining a new license every time they opened for business made food trucks in Murray uncommon outside of Movies in the Park and other special events.
The new license requires an inspection by the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. After that, food trucks will be able to operate on private property with the property owner’s permission. The licenses will expire in one year, and they do not allow food trucks to operate in one location for longer than a day at a time. There will not be a limit to the number of licenses available.
The ordinance will not affect any laws already on the book, and special event licenses will still be required any time there are more than two trucks in a given location. There are currently no plans to allow these trucks to operate on the public right-of-way. For now, signage other than on the truck is not allowed.
Tiffany Allen, who works for the Salt Lake City food truck Blake’s Gourmet, said that it wasn’t that the city was hostile to food trucks before.
“Some cities are stricter than Murray, even in special events they won’t allow food trucks.”
Murray helped food truck owners as best as they could, but their efforts were hindered by an outdated code.
Local businesses were some of the most vocal in pushing for the change.
“Fifty percent of our business is private events,” Allen said.
“Food trucks have become so popular people want them for weddings and grand openings. They’re especially popular with car dealerships [which Murray] has a lot of,” Allen said.
“[Before] the only events we did in Murray were special events. Changing the law is going to open us up for more…events.”
The move to revise the code puts Murray in line with other Wasatch Front cities who have either changed their codes or are in the process of doing so. “I think we were playing catch up really,” Hall said.
Being late out of the gate did give Murray the benefit of looking at their neighbors when drafting the section. Hall estimated that they looked at the codes of 15 to 18 other cities during the process. The result was an ordinance that fit Murray’s size and culture.
Hall said the city also considered the effect that this decision might have on brick and mortar restaurants, but ultimately decided that food trucks operate infrequently enough to not have a large impact. In fact, some of the businesses who requested the city to re-evaluate its food truck laws were restaurants themselves.
It didn’t take long for the licenses to start seeing interest. Just days after passing the code amendment, food truck owners were already signing up.
“Food trucks are the buzz du jour,” Hall said.“For us it’s about making sure our ordinances are still regulating, while recognizing the industry has changed. The goal was to make our codes compatible with the way these trucks are operating these days.”