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Lunch links: Food fights

Photo by Mr. T in DC.
The powerful vs. the food trucks: Established restaurants, business associations, and even existing food truck depots have been lobbying the DC Council hard to limit the innovative new mobile eateries. (City Paper)

Eat more, drink less: Several "restaurants" risk losing their restaurant-class liquor licenses for not selling enough food. Owners argue that tavern-class licenses gin up too much neighborhood opposition. (City Paper)

Shaw/Bloomingdale will get a sit down restaurant: Beau Thai, a new restaurant in Shaw, just won its case to become a sit-down restaurant. Converting a former fast-food carry-out to a sit down restaurant requires a costly, time-consuming zoning change, even though Beau Thai had overwhelming neighborhood support. (TBD)

Why no bike sharing on the Mall?: It turns out that the Park Service gave away the store to its concessionaires, who have the right of first refusal for any new public amenity on NPS parkland. In contrast, GSA has welcomed CaBi. (Housing Complex)

Security might not always trump public access: Sen. Lieberman is pushing a bill to reform the Federal Protective Service, which is responsible for protecting federal buildings. The bill will allow agencies to object to FPS security plans if they risk hindering public access. (Post)

Museum bubble takes shape: The proposed inflatable bubble to cover the donut hole courtyard of the Hirshhorn is set to flutter open in two years. The courtyard will become a temporary programming space for public events. Now if they could just remove that concrete perimeter wall... (The Dirt)

Preservation meets race in Alexandria: A lawsuit in Alexandria over the preserving the American Legion building casts preservation as having disproportionate racial impacts. Meanwhile, neither side knows what to do with the building. (DCmud)

New New Carrollton: WMATA and the State of Maryland are looking to transform the parking lots around New Carrollton into a denser, walkable neighborhood. (Post)

More car-free, less traffic: TBS's TBD's unscientific survey found that Car-Free Day reduced traffic somewhat in DC and heavily on 395. Admittedly, more research is needed before we draw solid conclusions, but it's at least a start.

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Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 


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It's TBD; not TBS :)

As much as I love to support TOD and think that with the Purple Line coming in alongside Metro, MARC, and Amtral: New Carrollton has some good prospects... I do hope that they include a good share or P&R garages considering the location's prime spot at the end of the line & right on two interstates.

...Also, I'm still dearly amused by a report by PB from about a year or so ago which shows a "rendering" of what New Carrollton could be. It just showed a photo of Berlin's Hauptbahnhof with a yellow "New Carrollton" banner crudely Photoshopped in.

by Bossi on Sep 23, 2010 1:17 pm • linkreport

I always wondered how restaurants could gauruntee the govt that 45% of their sales would be food. It seems like a shaky area if for whatever reason your clientele just want to drink. And especially at a place like the saloon that has rules about behavior and explicitly tries to make it not seem like your typical idea of a bar.

by Canaan on Sep 23, 2010 1:38 pm • linkreport

Interesting tidbit on the sales tax for food trucks: they pay a flat fee of $1500 of sales tax instead of 10%.

Take the Lobster truck: $15 rolls. That would normally generate $1.50 in taxes. They sell about 100 a day, or $150 dollars in taxes, or in two weeks about $1500.

No different than buying online or using craigslist, but it does seem that was a rule that needs some changing.

by charlie on Sep 23, 2010 1:45 pm • linkreport

Sorry, hit post before I finished.

I'd like to see DC exempt all food sales under $10 -- paying a 10% tax on cheap eats hurts -- but until that happens high-end food trucks have a huge tax advantage.

by charlie on Sep 23, 2010 1:46 pm • linkreport

I would think a place like the Saloon that has such a good reputation would not face too much opposition to getting a tavern license.

I also agree that the $1500 flat sales tax number is laughably low. Getting sales tax for workers' lunches is one of the few ways we can tax commuters.

by Reid on Sep 23, 2010 1:59 pm • linkreport


What's the time unit of the $1500? Is it per day, week, month, year, etc.?

Also, I thought Saloon was already on a tavern license, though I could certainly be wrong... or was that just an example of a well-regarded bar; not so much an example as far as licensure is concerned?

by Bossi on Sep 23, 2010 2:37 pm • linkreport

@bossi; as far as I can it is yearly.

by charlie on Sep 23, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport


The Saloon has a Class C (restaurant) liquor license. ANC1B supported its renewal last June without debate since the Saloon and several other establishments were considered uncontroversial.

by Eric Fidler on Sep 23, 2010 2:51 pm • linkreport

Good luck trying to raise the taxes on street vendors - they will cry bloody murder and the city will quickly back down. It's a fantastic cash-only business. Which, we all know, means they report every single dollar earned to the IRS.

I'd love to hear Courtland Milloy's take on the food trucks debate, especially since the trucks are entirely based around Twitter and social media.

by Fritz on Sep 23, 2010 3:50 pm • linkreport

I'm a bike commuter in Silver Spring. Pollution seemed worse on car-free day. I hacked and wheezed my way to work.

by BikeGrrl on Sep 23, 2010 4:10 pm • linkreport

Pollution seemed worse on car-free day
probably b/c it was 90 degrees for the first time in a week or more. Pollution is always worse when the temps are higher.

by Tina on Sep 23, 2010 4:27 pm • linkreport

I don't think its entirely fair to say its the powerful vs the food trucks. Fixed location businesses already pay a host of fees and taxes. The mobile food trucks do not have to pay the same fees (usually), yet they get the same services and also can block foot traffic to the fixed location stores. If I had been paying through the nose for 20 years to keep open a small sandwich shop, I would not be happy to allow a food truck to park outside.

by SJE on Sep 23, 2010 5:04 pm • linkreport

The food trucks are a good idea to a point, but they can just 'hit and run' -- they're not tied to any neighborhood, and have very little to lose in the event they poison and kill someone, or just offer terrible service -- they can still greatly harm existing businesses by capitalizing on any 'big days', and then not show up at all on slow days. This is not fair to people who are 'stuck' in one place -- the people who make our streets nicer places to be. If i had a choice, I might never go inside a restaurant again -- and maybe that's the type of city that people want to live in -- but i think we should tread carefully, starting right now.

by Peter Smith on Sep 23, 2010 8:08 pm • linkreport

Um, if a food truck poisons and kills someone, I think the DC Dept of Health would have some issues with that food truck continuing to have a license to sell food.

by Fritz on Sep 24, 2010 1:09 pm • linkreport

Um, if a food truck poisons and kills someone, I think the DC Dept of Health would have some issues with that food truck continuing to have a license to sell food.

The reputation of the food truck is fleeting, and that's a massive advantage for the food truck over a 'stuck-in-one-place' restaurant.

Say the truck's license gets pulled -- so what?

They roll down the street to some new block and start selling there. You can't check the license of a food truck if you have no idea where it is. They can locate in 1,000 different places in a 10-square-mile area. Maybe they drive over the border to the next municipality? Maybe they drive 20 or 30 miles even? Maybe they apply for a new license under a new owner/manager/operator? Non-mobile restaurants don't have all these advantages b/c of the relatively large capital outlays required to set up a non-mobile shop (among many disadvantages).

And, I think, the problem of 'poaching' (large, special-event crowds), is another major problem.

Actually, the problems with mobile food trucks are myriad -- thus the regulation. i took exception to the description of the food trucks as 'innovative', which means, by definition, that non-mobile restaurants are _not_ innovative (or _as_ innovative), and that it's the big, bad all-powerful restaurant lobby and hypocritical food truck vendors just trying to shut down competition.

Sure - food trucks are great - but for who, and for how long? That existing mobile operators are lobbying against allowing even more mobile operators to exist may be a sign of hypocrisy, or it may also be a sign of wanting to survive (maybe they are barely making it right now, or maybe they want to be able to continue to provide their workers a living wage, or maybe they want to be able to not cut corners when it comes to keeping the truck in sanitary condition, etc.). And if business gets slow in a place where people have become dependent on a food truck, will the food truck stick around? Maybe -- but probably not if the business is better elsewhere. Place and mobility are really important -- what rights and responsibilities do all businesses have, including mobile trucks? There are arguments of sustainability, and the new buzzword, resiliency, etc.

I have no idea if the number of food trucks is not enough, too many, the geographic concentration is wrong, etc., but they should be regulated -- number, size, etc. In other words, the folks lobbying against more food trucks _may_ have a case.

by Peter Smith on Sep 24, 2010 1:52 pm • linkreport

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