L&I apologizes to Temple food trucks, will work with vendors on overnight plan

“We will not undertake enforcement until these discussions have taken place.”

Food trucks lined up in their regular spots at Temple

Food trucks lined up in their regular spots at Temple

Google Street View

Temple’s food trucks might not have to move overnight after all.

On Wednesday evening, Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections announced a change of plans. Instead of setting a hard May 20 deadline to enforce new regulations for mobile vendors on the North Philly campus, officials say they’ll first work with the trucks to come up with a solution that works for everybody.

“We have all summer!” said Lilly Dzemaili, owner of Richie’s Lunch Box, on hearing the news. “Oh my god, the stress level in my head is way down. Now we have time to think, to put something together.”

Billy Penn reported Wednesday morning that 50 mobile vendors in North Philadelphia got a letter from Temple last week, warning them that if the owners didn’t start moving their trucks overnight, operators could be slapped with fines from the city, or get towed. It gave a hard deadline of April 29 for enforcement of the regulation — which has actually been law for the past three years.

Since then, the deadline for compliance has slowly been pushed back. On Tuesday, after hearing some outcry from vendors, L&I extended it until May 20. Then, after protests from students and faculty and an online petition that garnered nearly 3,000 signatures in 24 hours, officials decided to postpone it indefinitely, pending talks this summer.

“As the department should have done prior to initiating enforcement of these provisions, L&I will engage over the summer with vendors and other stakeholders to explore and address their concerns,” wrote department spokesperson Karen Guss in an email.

“We will not undertake enforcement until these discussions have taken place and apologize for any confusion or distress.”

Storing the trucks offsite has technically been required since at least 2015, but was rarely — if ever — enforced. It’s a major change in how the 50 mobile kitchens operate, one some proprietors said might put them out of business altogether.

Quickly, the Temple community rallied for the cause,staging a protest at an official Temple barbecue and using social media to express their dismay.

Dzemaili had toyed with the possibility of closing for the summer — she couldn’t figure out a plan to store her truck at night before the initial deadline. Upon hearing the news, she breathed an audible sign of relief.

“Oh wow, this is exciting,” she said on Wednesday. “This really helps.”

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