DOH is Finally Fighting the Food Truck Black Market

People are making lots of money from food trucks and carts. And I’m not even talking about the chefs and entrepreneurs that are serving up street meat, lobster rolls, and korean tacos. I’m talking about the permit holders who are selling (or leasing out) food vending permits on the black market for 100 times (literally) what the DOH charges for these permits.

WNYC News posted another exposé on the illegal black market that almost all of the new school vendors have to support if they want to operate their business. The article features a candid interview with Korilla BBQ’s Eddie Song, in addition to a visit to a Brooklyn commissary where the shady business is done. Those of us who follow the food truck industry have known about these issues for years. There have been well-documented arrests and articles about these concerns and I think we all agree that it should absolutely be possible for an entrepreneur to begin a food vending business without breaking the law.

And yesterday also brings news that the Department of Health is finally taking steps to fix this broken system.

In a press release, the DOH announced it is proposing new regulations, including that the permit holder must be present at the vehicle’s inspection. On the surface this is a great way to begin to combat the black market, but how does this affect all the vendors who don’t actually own their permits? If the permit holder is no longer present (or even in NYC), would the current user of the permit be able to retain ownership of the permit assuming that their cart or truck is up to code requirements? Or what if the actual permit holder (who is most likely unrelated to the actual food business) does show up for the inspection just to keep their end of the deal, would the black market then essentially be allowed to continue?

A hearing will be held on July 19 and anybody is invited to submit comments to before that date. Other proposed changes include requirements on keeping logs at the commissaries where the vehicles are stored and capping the size of food carts to 5 feet wide and 10 feet long (trucks are not included in that size limitation). What does everybody think about these issues?


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    The WSJ has been all over these issues…

    “City Bites Into Carts”

    “Mr. Khan’s Best Food, on West 45th Street near Sixth Avenue, seems standard in size: 10-by-6-feet. But Mr. Paktik soon may have a problem. His cart may be 1 foot too wide, according to new regulations proposed by the New York City Health Department on Wednesday.”

    If this passes, there’s going to be big money in modifying carts, since most are will be too wide for the new standards. It will also drive some vendors off the streets, especially ones who pay big bucks for black market permits because they probably don’t make enough (selling $1 hotdogs)to pay for getting their carts compliant.

    Mohammed of Kwik Meal fame gets his permits on the black market:

    “Mohammed Rahman, who has operated the popular Kwik Meal cart in midtown for 11 years, says he pays $15,000 every two years for his permit. “The city charges only $200, why should I have to pay $15,000? All the profits go to someone else.””

  • how instead of capping the number of permits overall, capping the number of permits for particular foods, for example: hot dog carts are limited to 100. halal carts, 200; and so on. i mean really, do we need 5 halal and hot dog carts along the same block?

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