Over 50 restaurants have signed a petition to challenge the City of Burien’s proposed new Food Truck Pilot Program, which they say will hurt local dining establishments.

Resolution No. 445 is on the agenda for Monday night’s Burien City Council meeting. If approved, it would allow for a pilot program that would run from May 1, 2021 to May 1, 2022.

Empresarios Unidos – which collected signatures for the petition – says that local brick and mortar restaurants are “reeling from COVID-19 losses” and are against Resolution No. 445, a Food Truck Pilot Program first proposed in February, 2020.

The group has gathered signatures from over 50 Burien restaurants who oppose the new ordinance (download PDF of petition here), which may be passed at Monday night’s council meeting.

FOOD TRUCKS DISCUSSED SINCE FEB. 2020
Last February, the Burien City Council directed the Business and Economic Development Partnership (BEDP) to study whether food trucks should be allowed to operate in the City of Burien as part of their 2020 work plan. The BEDP considered the food truck pilot program at public meetings on June 26, July 24, and Sept. 25, 2020.

“After discussion and consideration, the BEDP recommended that a food truck pilot program be authorized for twelve (12) months to assess the efficacy of food truck operations in Burien,” the city said. “Program guidelines were developed to ensure local restaurants, community members, and food truck operators benefit from the program.”

At the March 1 Burien City Council meeting, lawmakers moved to place a resolution approving creation of the Burien Food Truck Pilot Program on the consent agenda for Monday, March 15, 2021, with some requested modifications reflected in the attached resolution.

If passed, the pilot program would begin May 1, 2021 and be effective until May 1, 2022. It would also require that Food Trucks receive restaurant owner permission to operate within 50 feet of an existing restaurant.

As per the resolution, here are the city’s requirements for participating Food Trucks:

“A food truck vendor is defined as a seller of food from a mobile food preparation van, truck, or other vehicle or conveyance. Sales of only pre-packaged food products does not constitute food truck vending. food truck vendors operating within the regulations of this program shall be exempt from a temporary use permit, but must apply for and obtain the following:

      • City of Burien Food Truck Pilot Program authorization
      • City of Burien business license
      • Certificate of Insurance, with a copy of an endorsement naming the additional insured as the
        City of Burien
      • King County Health Department approvals
      • Any required fire inspection approvals

In addition, Food Truck Vendors must abide by:

      • Governor’s COVID-19 related public health orders
      • Other local and state laws as they apply”

The group is challenging the food truck program now because “the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a disproportionate economic and labor impact on the Latino community across the United States. Moreover, the restaurant industry, including food establishments in Burien, have been especially hard-hit according to data contained in the National Restaurant Association’s 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry report”:

    • “The restaurant industry ended 2020 with total sales that were $240 billion below the Association’s pre-pandemic forecast for the year.
    • “As of Dec. 1, 2020, more than 110,000 eating and drinking places were closed for business temporarily, or for good.
    • “The eating and drinking place sector finished 2020 nearly 2.5 million jobs below its pre-coronavirus level. At the peak of initial closures, the Association estimates up to 8-million employees were laid off or furloughed.”

Empresarios Unidos also says that restaurants in Burien “now face additional competition from truck-based businesses with significantly different enterprise models,” including:

    • No property lease
    • No property taxes
    • No site maintenance expenses
    • No utilities payments
    • No large labor costs
    • No fixed service area
    • No ties to one zone

“Let us be clear. Empresarios Unidos does not oppose truck-based businesses,” the group said in a statement. “We only ask that the rules of the road be the same for both fixed and mobile food establishments.”

The organization adds:

“Give priority to those local brick and mortar restaurant businesses most impacted by a change in ordinance that negates our tangible, fixed-investment in Burien. On behalf of our entire community, we urge you to re-evaluate the proposed unrestricted operation of outside, truck-based food businesses within Burien and that there is a compelling unmet need that warrants their entry.”