Food truck event on hold over city regulations

·4 min read

The company organizing Oak Ridge's weekly food truck rallies has decided to stop after just two weeks.

Dale Akins, president of The Chef's Workshop LLC, stated in an email that he stopped the rallies because meeting city regulations was too expensive. He said the city had sent his company a memo with requests concerning issues. The city shared what it stated was this memo with The Oak Ridger, which listed fire code issues among others. Akins' email was sent out to all people who had subscribed to it to find out about food rallies in Oak Ridge, Clinton and other areas.

"In the end, it is literally impossible to host rallies in Oak Ridge unless we are willing to lose a minimum of $500 per event until Administrative Memo 2205 is rescinded or a Food Truck Ordinance is adopted, which could take several months," Akins stated. He asked people to lobby Oak Ridge City Council members to adopt such an ordinance.

Brittany White and Gail Hamilton enjoy the inaugural Oak Ridge Food Truck Rally.
Brittany White and Gail Hamilton enjoy the inaugural Oak Ridge Food Truck Rally.

"The International Fire Code, as adopted by the city of Oak Ridge, is designed to prevent tragedies such as have occurred with these vehicles across the country. Violations of these standards cannot be ignored as it puts the public’s safety at risk," an official city news release sent after The Oak Ridger's inquiry stated. The city stated during the first event on Aug. 3, three fire code failures occurred. However, during the second event last Thursday all of the seven food trucks passed inspections. The city claimed this compliance the second time around proved the trucks could meet city standards.

The rallies took place at 125 E. Main St. in Oak Ridge near the intersection with Wilson Street. The vacant land, which developers are interested in using for apartments and condominiums is across from the TownePlace Suites by the Marriott Knoxville Oak Ridge hotel and behind CVS Pharmacy.

Danyelle Foster, from left, Caitlyn Little and Laura Carrington eat at the Inaugural Oak Ridge Food Truck Rally.
Danyelle Foster, from left, Caitlyn Little and Laura Carrington eat at the Inaugural Oak Ridge Food Truck Rally.

The memo stated that at present food trucks must follow the following standards.

  • They need to go through the special event permit process with the Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks Department.

  • As part of that process, the Fire Prevention Office needs to inspect them.

  • Food truck operators should schedule an inspection with the Fire Prevention Office at least three business days before to their event. Inspections from cities with the same codes like Knoxville, Clinton, Maryville or Farragut count toward this requirement.

  • Food trucks parked overnight on private property need a temporary use permit. However, this would not apply to the trucks at the Oak Ridge Food Truck rallies as the event is only for a few hours.

  • Trucks found to be operating without a valid fire inspection will be ordered to cease operations within Oak Ridge until they have scheduled and successfully passed a city of Oak Ridge Fire Prevention Office Inspection.

"These mandates are important to help ensure the safety of the public. For a food truck event to be successful, food truck fire safety measures must be met, or everyone’s safety is at risk," Lauren Gray, senior communications specialist, for the city of Oak Ridge stated in an email. "The city recognizes and understands the desire the community has for events like these and we look forward to being able to host more food truck events sometime in the future."

Akins, in his statements, stressed his company's decisions weren't just on a whim but were the best decision they could make. His email was sent out to everyone who had signed up for the mailing list to alert them of the food truck rallies in Oak Ridge, Clinton and elsewhere.

"Please know our decision to cancel the rallies in Oak Ridge was not made in haste. My team spent several hours reviewing and debating every possible way to comply in order to avoid this conclusion," Akins stated. "If you would like the Food Truck Rallies to return to Oak Ridge, we ask that you respectfully reach out to your City Council members regarding the need for Food Truck Ordinances. Until then, please join us at our Food Truck Rallies in Clinton, Farragut, Dixie Lee, Lenoir City, and Seymour."

The memo stated the legal department was working on drafting a food truck ordinance. Such an ordinance, like any new one for the city, would need to pass City Council.

This article originally appeared on Oakridger: Food truck event on hold after city regulations