Food Trucks lobby in Olympia, hope to serve up changes in state regulations

Food trucks caused a lunch rush mob scene at the state capitol in Olympia on Thursday, April 13, 2017, as operators are hungry for some changes in the regulations. (Photo: KOMO News)

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Food trucks caused a lunch rush mob scene at the state capitol in Olympia on Thursday, as operators are hungry for some changes in the regulations.

Several lawmakers said there's an appetite at the legislature to make improvements. It was the first ever Food Truck Lobby Day - the mark of a flourishing industry.

"It's huge," said David Cobb of Skillet Street Food. "We've been in business for ten years."

Jen Gustin of Boss Mama's Kitchen is the new kid on the block.

"We are in our 8th month," she said.

It is an industry that's expected to continue booming.

Richard Houle, Bates Tech instructor chef said by 2020 it will be $14 billion nationally.

Houle said it's gotten so big, he's heading up a Food Truck school at Bates in Tacoma.

Instructor chef Oscar Jones said of the students, "It seems like everybody coming up wants to be in food service because they can do so many things with it."

Their students are putting out the popular doughnut burger.

Customer Wayne Schaffer was asked as he took a bite, "How does it taste?" He said, "It tastes awesome."

But, food truck operators say the different regulations from county to county are leaving a bad taste in their mouth. They say every county and city seem to have different rules.

"I understand everything can't be perfect. But, if it were streamlined it would make it a lot easy for all of us," said Gustin.

Rep. Paul Graves, (R-Fall City), said he and Rep. Morgan Irwin, (R-Enumclaw), are interested in helping. Graves.

"We were just talking about doing a 'Food Truck Bill of Rights' to make it really easy for food trucks to operate and to make it hard for local governments to stop them from operating," said Graves.

Right now, food trucks can cook hamburgers and hot dogs on board, but all other items have to be prepared at offsite kitchens and loaded on board, unlike Portland which allows full cooking on board.

"I'd love to allow food to be fully cooked on board so we can have just as many culinary options here in Washington as they do down in Oregon," said Rep. Drew Stokesbary, (R-Auburn).

"I'd love to do that rather than having two kitchens and paying for two kitchens," said Emily Wigley of Orca Eats food truck on Vashon Island

Food truck operators said they were surprised at the huge turnout of customers and were really encouraged by the lawmakers who want to jump on board. But, they realize the restaurant industry is probably going to fight them all the way.

However, Rep. Irwin said, "I have a background in economics and I'm a believer in high tide raising all the boats. I don't see how it's bad for a restaurant if we bring in a thousand people to their neighborhood every day and that's what food trucks do."

The lawmakers said any new food truck legislation will have to wait until the next legislative session in 2018.

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