OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — An organization that helps create food truck rallies in cities across East Tennessee announced Thursday there would be no more rallies in Oak Ridge.
The Chef's Workshop was created to support food truck owners in a variety of ways. One of the major ways they help is by organizing food truck rallies. They also run a Food Truck Hub where owners can use a prep kitchen, refrigerated space, and other kinds of necessities.
They were planning to host routine food truck rallies in Oak Ridge. However, two days after the launch event, they said they learned they would need to cancel the rallies.
Oak Ridge has some special requirements for food truck businesses before they can operate in the city. For example, if they are operated out of a person's home, they must submit a home occupation application before they can get a business license.
In an administrative memo sent to the event organizer, the city said they were working on an ordinance to address food trucks. In the meantime, they said staff reviewed the permitting processes to find a way to allow for food trucks to continue operating while keeping people safe. They sent a list of guidelines to follow until an ordinance is active. Some are listed below.
- Food trucks operating on city property would need to go through the Recreation and Parks Department's special event permit process, and food trucks would need an inspection before operating.
- If food trucks on private property do not stay overnight, they will not need a temporary use permit.
- Food trucks parked overnight on private property will need a temporary use permit with a 90-day limit on operations.
- Food trucks would need to follow the Fire Code and are required to be inspected at least 3 days before an event. They said the Fire Prevention Office would accept inspections from other jurisdictions that have the same fire code such as Knoxville, Clinton, Farragut and Maryville.
The city said they hoped to have an ordinance governing food trucks within the next few months. They said the first town weeks went well with a lot of interest, but the vendor felt the fire safety requirement was excessive.
"The International Fire Code, as adopted by the City of Oak Ridge, is designed to prevent tragedies such as have occurred with these vehicles across the country. Violations of these standards cannot be ignored as it puts the public’s safety at risk," city leaders said.
They said they worked with food truck owners to give inspections, allowing them to participate in the event. Three failures occurred in the first week, they said, but all seven food trucks passed the next week.
The Chef's Workshop said on social media they spent around two months organizing the rallies and worked closely with city council members throughout the process. However, on Thursday they said they received the memo about "temporary accommodation of food truck operation in the city of Oak Ridge."
They posted a statement about the memo on social media. Part of it is available below.
"We advised the city 'it is impossible to comply with all of the mandates in this memorandum in the timeframe provided and I must respectfully cancel all Food Truck Rallies in Oak Ridge until the city of Oak Ridge can adopt an ordinance pertaining to food trucks.' Subsequent negotiations failed.
Please know our decision to cancel the rallies in Oak Ridge was not made in haste. My team spent several hours reviewing and debating every possible way to comply in order to avoid this conclusion."
They also said they would continue hosting rallies in Clinton, Farragut, Dixie Lee, Lenoir City and Seymour.
The next event is planned between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Clinton.