Washington, DC: Pinup Panini Food Truck Quits Over Proposed Regulations
By Benjamin R. Freed | DCIst.com
Another D.C. food truck is leaving the road over the District government’s proposed regulations over the growing industry. Cori Bryant, the owner of the Pinup Panini sandwich truck, announced that today would be her last day serving pressed sandwiches out of the window of her light blue truck painted with the image of a 1940s-style pinup girl.
“The new regs are to much for this little startup,” Bryant wrote from her truck’s Twitter account this morning. And after serving today’s lunch crowd in Chinatown, Pinup Panini packed it up for good.
Bryant launched Pinup Panini in October, serving up hot, made-to-order meals in competition with a fleet of trucks where success comes from a combination of expedient service and culinary creativity. But D.C.’s food trucks have also found themselves hampered by the city’s proposed regulations over their industry. Mayor Vince Gray first proposed regulations last year; since then, the proposed rules have gone through three extensive makeovers.
The most recent version of proposed regulations, published last month, would establish 23 mobile vending zones around the city. But those zones could only be accessed by vendors who win a lottery for one of the spaces; both the lottery and the spaces come with fees.
In response to the current version of proposed regulations, Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington, which represents about 100 mobile food vendors, launched a fundraising campaign to publicize its opposition. There is also a D.C. Council hearing on the proposed rules scheduled for April 30.
But already some the owners of food trucks might be eyeing different territory where they might not have to face such burdensome rules. Arlington officials are also deliberating food truck regulations, and those proposed rules would actually open up the areas and lengths of time food truck could operate.
Fans of Pinup Panini, though, are out of luck. In subsequent tweets, Bryant wrote that she planned out two years to become profitable, but she “just can’t afford the war on trucks.”
Bryant also isn’t the first food truck owner to shut down her business over the threat of difficult regulations. Last month, Brian Farrell, the owner of the Italian food truck Basil Thyme, told Washington City Paper he was quitting, saying the proposed regulations would make the already difficult food truck business too burdensome to be find any success.
UPDATE, 5:15 p.m.: “It’s sad and unfortunate,” says Doug Povich, the chairman of the Food Truck Association. “She made some pretty cool food.”
Povich, who is also a part-owner of the Red Hook Lobster Pound trucks, says the ongoing ambiguity over how the city plans to regulate his industry creates an environment that makes small-business owners fearful.
“Without certainty, it makes it extremely difficult to operate a business,” he says.
On top of that, the food truck game is tricky enough to navigate, with truck operators having to account for weather, midweek holidays, and street closures. “When you lay on top proposed regulations that are extremely detrimental to our ability to operate,” he says.
Povich expects Bryant will not come out of Pinup Panini, which was not a member of the Food Truck Association, in great financial shape. “When someone invests their time and money, there’s no question she’ll be out a lot of money,” he says. “I hate to see it.”
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