In Response: Health official to monitor food truck issue

This morning, the Greensboro News & Record reported on a conversation elevated by the president of a local restaurant chain and a distributorship who also serves as the Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Health. The article in today’s paper highlights two different concerns including – a personal complaint about taxation and county and state health inspection systems.

To break it down, we will react separately:

Health Department’s Role in Inspecting Trucks

“Trucks must be licensed, but once they’re inspected they may move freely across county lines because a license from one county health department is good across the state, Shepherd said. Operators still face potential local check-up inspections  though, and are supposed to let health departments know when and where they’ll be open in that department’s jurisdiction, Shepherd said. They also must be associated with a brick-and-mortar restaurant, where they’re expected to go for cleanings and to dump things such as  used sink water. They face a number of other requirements on par with the ones traditional restaurants must meet, such as having commercial-grade kitchen equipment, Shepherd said.” 

Exactly. It’s a health department’s role to inspect both mobile food trucks and brick and mortar restaurants. They are a valuable player in this conversation and it is their responsibility to create systems that work for maintaining inspections — not to discourage a free market. Additionally, section 26-234 #5 in the City of Greensboro Ordinance on Pushcarts, requires “a copy of any approval required by the Guilford County Health Department pursuant to the rules governing the sanitation of restaurants and other food handling establishments and any other approval required by a governmental unit for the preparation and service of food.”

Personal concerns, by the president of a restaurant chain and a distributorship, about food trucks, complaining last week that some trucks are registered in other counties, so their owners pay property and sales taxes there instead of in Guilford.

Trucks registered in other counties are still required to pay a permitting fee to the City of Greensboro to operate. And, not all restaurants pay property taxes – they pay rent to property owners – as do food trucks. In the case of our focus on downtown Greensboro, we are reviewing appropriate Center City permitting fees that would pay into the Business Improvement District.

We have already addressed speculations that food trucks don’t pay sales tax to the county of purchase.   According to the NC DOR, “A mobile vendor should collect and remit sales tax in the location where the customer receives the good or product.”

Our request: 

We refer back to the specificity of our request. We are requesting the City of Greensboro implement a one year pilot program allowing food trucks to operate, with specific procedures and regulations, in predetermined geographic areas or “zones” within Downtown Greensboro. This program will include metrics to measure impact.

We believe downtown should be inclusive, encourage new business and find mutually beneficial solutions to an environment where both food trucks and brick and mortar restaurants thrive. Food trucks have the potential to attract more visitors, residents, patrons and revitalize underutilized sections of our Center City. Other cities across the country have done it – let’s step it up.

We hope that the Guilford County Department of Health will serve their role in inspecting the trucks part of the downtown pilot program. We have addressed concerns about taxation and believe that we can create adequate regulations to maintain fairness.

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