Memphis: City Council Passed the Ordinance That Lifts Restrictions on Food Trucks
Good news for those of you who love food on wheels: the city council passed the ordinance that lifts restrictions on food trucks. I’m looking forward to mobile tacos in Memphis soon.
WHEREAS, cities across the country have enjoyed the popularity of street food
and that popularity has increased over the past few years; and
WHEREAS, citizens in this community have expressed an interest in the
opportunity to establish a mobile food operation venture while others have expressed the desire to have these additional food and location choices; and
WHEREAS, the Council deems it in the best interest of the citizens of Memphis
that such mobile food operations be locally regulated as a matter of health and public
safety, and for the general welfare of the people.
SECTION 1. BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF
MEMPHIS, that Section 16-176. Definitions, is hereby amended to include the
following terms and definitions:
Commissary – means any State of Tennessee licensed stationary food establishment that
serves mobile food dispensers, mobile food facilities, vending machines or other food
dispensing operations where (i) food, containers or supplies are stored; (ii) food is
prepared or prepackaged for sale or service at other locations; (iii) utensils are cleaned; or
(iv) liquid and solid wastes are disposed of or potable water is obtained.
Mobile food preparation vehicle – A mobile food preparation vehicle is any motorized
vehicle that includes a self-contained or attached trailer kitchen in which food is
prepared, processed or stored and used to sell and dispense prepared food to the ultimate
consumer. Mobile units must be mobile at all times during operation. The unit must be on
wheels (excluding boats) at all times. Any mobile food unit that removes such wheels or
becomes stationary must meet Tennessee Department of Health Regulations 1200-23-1
et. seq. in their entirety. This definition does not include pushcarts as regulated by city
codes and prohibited from selling potentially hazardous foods by the Tennessee
Department of Health, nor vehicles from which only ice cream and other frozen nonhazardous
food products are sold, nor vehicles operating under a special event permit.
Menu change – means a modification of a food establishment’s menu that requires a
change in the food establishment’s food preparation equipment, storage equipment or
storage capacity previously approved by the Health Department. The term “menu
change” shall include, but is not limited to, the addition of potentially hazardous food to a
menu, installation of new food preparation or storage equipment, or increasing storage
Servicing Area – A mobile food unit servicing area shall be provided and shall include at
least overhead protection for any supplying, cleaning, or servicing operation. Within this
servicing area, there shall be a location provided for the flushing and drainage of liquid
wastes separate from the location provided for water servicing and for the loading and
unloading of food and related supplies.
SECTION 2. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE
CITY OF MEMPHIS, that Section 16-187 is hereby amended to add “16-261”at the end
of the section.
SECTION 3. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE
CITY OF MEMPHIS, that Chapter 16 Section 16-178 is hereby amended to add Mobile
Food Preparation Vehicles to the list of Food Establishments with an annual local permit
fee of $150.00 per mobile food unit vehicle.
SECTION 4. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE
CITY OF MEMPHIS, that Chapter 16 Section 16-257 (a) is hereby amended and
replaced to read as follows:
“This section shall not apply wherever huckstering or mobile food
preparation vehicles are otherwise regulated in specific chapters or sections of this
SECTION 5. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE
CITY OF MEMPHIS, that Chapter 16 is hereby amended to add Section 16-261 which
shall read as follows:
Section 16-261. Mobile Food Preparation Vehicles.
Mobile food preparation vehicles shall meet all applicable requirements of this article in
addition to the requirements outlined as follows:
(1) No person shall engage in the business of a mobile food preparation vehicle within
the municipal limits without first having obtained a permit required by section 16-178 of
the City Code of Ordinances and the State of Tennessee.
(2) A mobile food preparation vehicle license, as authorized by the State of the
Tennessee and local ordinances, will not be issued to a person unless the following
conditions are met:
(a) The vehicle must be specially designed as defined as a mobile
food preparation vehicle and be approved by the health
authority in addition to meeting the standards as set forth in
section 16-208 of the City Code of Ordinances
(b) No person shall engage in the business of a mobile food
preparation vehicle without first having obtained a commissary
license or having a written commissary agreement, if required
by the health authority.
(c) Each mobile food preparation vehicle must display number its
business name and state and local permit numbers, with letters
and numbers at least three (3) inches in height, in a prominent
and visible location on the vehicle.
(d) The driver of the truck must have a current Tennessee Driver’s
License, current auto insurance (including liability insurance)
and current vehicle registration as required by Tennessee law
and enforced by law enforcement authorities.
(e) The vehicle can only operate in locations where the operation of
motorized vehicles is permitted under local zoning ordinances
and enforced by local Code Enforcement authorities
(f) All current permits must be posted in a conspicuous manner, in
compliance with T.C.A. 68-14-305.
(3) The health officer shall adopt written rules and regulations for mobile food
preparation vehicles for the purpose of interpretations of this article.
SECTION 6. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE
CITY OF MEMPHIS, that Chapter 16 is hereby amended to add Section 16 –262 which
shall read as follows:
Section 16-262. Operational requirements.
1) When legally parked on a city street, alley and other public thoroghfares in an
allowed zoning district, Mmobile food preparation vehicles shall park on private
property with permission of the property owner, or on city streets, alleys and other
public thoroughfares within an allowed districtfor no less than 30 minutes and
shall not exceed a total of sixtwo hours in any one block, with food service
available for no more than four hours of that time., with aThe mobile food vendor
must then provide a minimum break from that location of one hour., in any one
block three times per day.
(2) When parked on private property with the permission of the property owner, a
mobile food preparation vehicle may operate at the times and for the duration
provided in its permission by the property owner. No sales from such vehicle shall
be made between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6 a.m.
(3) No mobile food preparation vehicle shall be equipped with any external
electronic sound-amplifying device.
Comment [c1]: Omitted at request of Health
(4) No operator of such vehicle shall park or stand such vehicle within 300 feet of
a school or school playground in a residential district while school is in session,
unless an agreement is established with such school.
(5) When legally parked on a city street, alley and other public thoroghfares
in an allowed zoning district or on private property, noNo operator of such
vehicle shall park or stand such vehicle within 300 feet of any principal customer
entrance to a restaurant outside of the Central Business Improvement District
(CBID) during its posted hours of operation. For any restaurant within the CBID,
this distance shall be 50 feet. Restaurant, for purposes of this section, means any
public place at a fixed location kept, used, maintained, advertised and held out to
the public as a place where food and drink are prepared and served to the public
for consumption on or off the premises pursuant to the required licenses. Such
establishments include, but are not limited to, restaurants, bars, lounges, coffee
shops, cafeterias, dining rooms, eating houses, short order cafes, luncheonettes,
grills, tearooms and sandwich shops. All measured distances and distance
requirements addressed in this regulation shall be distances measured in a straight
line from the nearest edge of the mobile vehicle or trailer to the nearest edge of
the object from which the mobile vehicle or trailer is to be distant.
(6) When legally parked on a city street, alley and other public thoroghfares
in an allowed zoning district ,Nno sale shall be made from such vehicle except
from the curb side thereof when parked on the public street, and then only when
such vehicle is legally parked.
(7) Cooking must not be conducted while the vehicle is in motion.
(8) Mobile food preparation vehicle shall be parked only at its commissary or any
other location approved by the Health Department that does not violate an
applicable city ordinance.
(9) No detached signs are permitted. All signs used must be permanently affixed
to, or painted on, the mobile food preparation vehicle and shall extend no more
than six inches from the vehicle. No sign shall flash, cause interference with
radio, telephone, television or other communication transmissions; produce or
reflect motion pictures; emit visible smoke, vapor, particles, or odor; be animated
or produce any rotation, motion or movement. A sign on which the message is
changed electronically not more than one time per eight seconds shall not be
considered to be an animated sign or a sign with movement, but is classified as a
changeable copy sign. Changeable copy signs shall be permitted, but the total
area of such signs on the vehicle, when parked and the vehicle is set up to operate,
must not exceed 30 square feet. Any message on a changeable copy sign shall
have an instantaneous change of message with no fading, fly-in, dissolve or other
feature used. The change of message rate on digital signs shall be limited to no
more than once every 8 seconds. No sign shall utilize any exposed incandescent
lamp with a wattage of more than forty (40) watts, any revolving beacon light; or
a luminance in excess of three hundred fifty (350) foot lamberts measured at the
(10) Vendor must provide for the sanitary collection of all refuse, litter and
garbage generated by the patrons using that service and remove all such waste
materials from the location before the vehicle departs. This includes physically
inspecting the general area for such items prior to the vehicle’s departure.
SECTION 7. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY
OF MEMPHIS that Chapter 16 is hereby amended to add section 16-263 to read as
Section 16-263 Food Requirements
(1) All food shall be protected from contamination and the elements while being
stored, prepared, displayed or sold at a mobile food preparation vehicle and
during transportation to or between such establishments or vending machine
locations, and so shall all food equipment, containers, utensils, food-contact
surfaces and devices and vehicles, in accordance with the provisions of this
chapter and the rules and regulations of the Health Department.
(2) All foods to be used, prepared, cooked, displayed, sold, served, offered for
sale or stored in a food establishment, or during transportation to or between
locations shall be from sources approved by the health authorities of the point
of origin and must be clean, wholesome, free from spoilage, adulteration,
contamination or misbranding and safe for human consumption. The
standards for judging wholesomeness for human food shall be those
promulgated and amended from time to time by the United States Food and
Drug Administration, United States Department of Agriculture, the Tennessee
Department of Health and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and
published in the United States Code of Federal Regulations and the Tennessee
Code Annotated or the Tennessee Rules and Regulations. Such laws will be
adopted by reference when approved and deemed effective as of the date
designated by the above government agencies or the appropriate legislative
body approving such changes.
(3) The only milk or milk products which may be used as food ingredients shall
be pasteurized Grade A milk or milk products from sources approved by the
Health Department. All pasteurized milk and fluid milk products shall be sold
in the individual original containers in which they were received from
distributor and shall be stored at a temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or
less until sold.
(4) Raw shellfish, including oysters, clams and mussels, with the exception of
properly prepared fish for sushi, shall not be sold or distributed, unless such
item has received specific authorization from the Tennessee Department of
Agriculture and the Shelby County Health Department.
(5) All meats, meat food products, poultry and poultry products used in cooking,
offered for sale, sold or prepared shall be from sources inspected and
approved by the United States Department of Agriculture, the State of
Tennessee Department of Agriculture or the state or local department of
health and shall be plainly marked, tagged or stamped to indicate the source,
and the inspection and approval.
(6) All hermetically sealed foods shall have been processed in approved foodprocessing
establishments. The use, preparation, display, sale or storage of
home-canned foods is prohibited and no other foods which have been
processed in a private home or other than in an approved food-processing
establishment shall be stored, used, kept for sale or served in a food
establishment or automatic food-vending machine.
(7) The use of newspaper or any unclean paper for the purpose of wrapping food
(8) The Health Officer may augment such requirements when needed to assure
the service of safe food and may prohibit the sale of certain potentially
SECTION 8. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY
OF MEMPHIS that Chapter 16 is hereby amended to add section 16-264 to read as
Section 16-264 Food handler requirements
All food handlers shall meet the standards as set forth in T.C.A.§ 53-8-108,
Tennessee Department of Health Rules and Regulations, and City Code of
Ordinance Chapter 16, Article 1, Division II, section 16-201 through section 16-
SECTION 9. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY
OF MEMPHIS that Chapter 16 is hereby amended to add section 16-265 to read as
Section 16-265 Equipment standards.
All mobile food preparation vehicles shall meet the standards as set forth in
Tennessee Department of Health Rules and Regulations, and City of Memphis
Code of Ordinance Chapter 16, Article 1. Division II, section 16-213, 16-214, 16-
215 and 16-216.
SECTION 10. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY
OF MEMPHIS that Chapter 16 is hereby amended to add section 16-266 to read as
Section 16-266 Maintenance of premises.
All Mobile food preparation vehicles shall meet the standards as set forth in T.C.A. § 53-
8-102 , T.C.A. § 53-8-103, Tennessee Department of Health Rules and Regulations, and
City of Memphis Code of Ordinance, Article 1, Division II, section 16-205, 16-206, 16-
207, 16-209, 16-210, 16-211 and 16-212.
SECTION 11. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY
OF MEMPHIS that Chapter 16 is hereby amended to add section 16-267 to read as
Section 16-267 Vehicle sanitation requirements.
(1) Each vehicle shall be constructed so that the portions of the vehicle containing
food shall be covered so that no dust or dirt will settle on the food; and such
portions of the vehicles which are designed to contain food shall be at least 18
inches above the surface of the public way while the vehicle is being used for the
conveyance of food
(2) The food storage areas of each vehicle shall be kept free from rats, mice, flies and
other insects and vermin. No living animals, birds, fowl, reptiles or amphibians
shall be permitted in any area where food is stored.and
(3) Hazardous non-food items such as detergents, insecticides, rodenticides, plants,
paint and paint products that are poisonous or toxic in nature shall not be stored in
the food area of the vehicle.
(4) The vehicle shall be enclosed with tops and sides.
(5) The vehicle shall not be used for any purpose other than for the purpose described
in this chapter.
SECTION 12. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY
OF MEMPHIS that Chapter 16 is hereby amended to add section 16-268 to read as
Section 16-268 Zoning Districts
(1) Mobile food preparation vehicles are allowed to operate on sites and city
streets, alleys and other public thoroughfares within the Office General (OG);
Commercial Mixed Use 1, 2 and 3 (CMU-1, CMU-2 and CMU-3); Central
Business (CBD); Campus Master Plan – 1 and -2 (CMP-1 and CMP-2);
Employment (EMP); Warehouse and Distribution (WD) and Heavy Industrial
(IH) zoning districts; the South Central Business Improvement Special
Purpose District (SCBID) and the Mixed Use (MU), Neighborhood Center
Overlay (NC), Uptown Hospital (UH) and Uptown Light Industrial (ULI)
districts of the Uptown Special Purpose District. In addition, mobile food
preparation vehicles are allowed to operate on public and private school sites
within residential zoning districts with written authorization from the school.
(2) Mobile food preparation vehicles must operate at least 1,000 feet from
permitted special events locations and permitted Farmer’s Market locations
and the mobile food preparation vehicle shall not operate within 2 hours
before or after a scheduled, permitted event or Farmer’s Market, unless the
vendor has received specific authority to operate from the event or Farmer’s
Market officials. Mobile food preparation vehicles may not operate within
300 feet of FedEx Forum or Autozone Park when events are being conducted
or within two (2) hours before or after such event.
(3) Approval to operate a mobile food preparation vehicle within all residential
and residential work districts, or parks, except as provided below, shall
require approval of a special use permit from the Land Use Control Board and
the legislative body, subject to the provisions of Chapter 9.6 of the Memphis
and Shelby County Unified Development Code.
a. Mobile Food Vendors shall be authorized to operate in any park under a
management agreement with the City or County Government under terms
and conditions established by those entities authorized by the City or
County for such park management activities as to the times and locations
within the park and additional fees charged for such vendors.
b. Written authorization for activities within such parks by the management
group shall be provided by the food vendor upon request by local or state
(4) Regulation of this section shall be performed by law enforcement and Shelby
County Code Enforcement
SECTION 13. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED, That the provisions of this
Ordinance are hereby severable. If any of these sections, provisions, sentences, clauses,
phrases or parts are held unconstitutional or void, the remainder of this Ordinance shall
continue in full force and effect.
SECTION14. BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED, That this Ordinance shall take
effect from and after the date it shall have been passed by the Council, signed by the
Chairman of the Council, certified and delivered to the office of the Mayor in writing by
the Comptroller, and become effective as otherwise provided by law.
Chairman of the Council
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