SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - May the Cheese Be With You has been serving up specialty grilled cheese sandwiches for about six weeks.
It is one of seven food trucks registered in Shreveport.
Co-owner Debbie Williamson described the permitting process as confusing and said it took them at least a month to get up and running.
“You just don’t know where to go and who to talk to. And we just persevered and kept going," she said.
“But some of these food trucks that are not licensed, they may think they are because there are so many places you have to go to and you think you are done and really you are not.”
Food truck owners like Williamson just want to see the process be as simple as possible so they can serve the community.
“We’re kinda by-the-book kind of girls. And we did the steps we thought we needed to do and we just wanted to try to do everything right."
City leaders were shocked to learn during Monday’s City Council work session that so few food trucks are registered.
“According to the city’s Revenue Division, only seven food trucks are registered with the city for 2019," said Adam Bailey, of the Shreveport-Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission. "And a simple Google search, Facebook inquiry or even calendar search of food trucks in Shreveport revealed a list of over 30 food truck vendors that operate or have operated in the city this year.
"A black market already exists.”
Mayor Adrian Perkins said he’s “... gone to city events where there are more than seven food trucks in the parking lot.”
This issue was at the top of their minds as council members passed updated regulations on food trucks as proposed by the MPC.
The ordinance revises what was referred to as antiquated and ambiguous language so there’s more oversight and understanding.
“Features of these food truck amendments include an update to the current code’s ambiguous language. The need to modify key terms," Bailey said.
“It will address food safety issues. It will establish a proper permitting and licensing process. It will establish proper areas of operation and update the proper operational requirements based on contemporary industry standards and operations.”
For people’s safety, Councilman Grayson Boucher said, the city needs to ensure food trucks are legitimately licensed through the state health department.
"We also need to make sure they are operating in areas of the city they are allowed to be.”
The councilman said there needs to be some oversight. “And I think we are kinda at Square One with it because the food truck industry has boomed in the past five years.”
Councilwoman LeVette Fuller said: “I think part of it is that there hasn’t been enough clarity to the policies we have. So now we are adding that clarity so we have a better way to enforce it."
City Council members did not approve a section that would have required food trucks to contact the city every time they relocate. Council members considered that to be too much overreach and a burden on food truck owners, so that amendment was sent back to the MPC for revision.
Shreveport police have issued no citations to food truck violators, according to Bailey.
Boucher said the city is looking into the possibility of fines if operators don’t comply after being educated about its requirements.