The Nashville Scene reports in this story that restaurants who compete with taco stands and other mobile food vendors are behind the Metro Council's proposal to ban the stands. The reason for the proposal is said to be the mobile vendors' lower health scores. Nashville Is Talking, however, compares the scores of sixteen mobile food vendors to those of more traditional restaurants, and the mobile food vendors scored better.
The ban is not supported by the Tennessee Restaurant Association.
"Council member Tommy Bradley, who represents an area in southwest Davidson County, and Amanda McClendon, whose district is centered at Thompson Lane and Nolensville Pike, where many mobile food vendors are located, both say that restaurateurs called them, complaining about a variety of problems, like customers parking on the sidewalk."
"The bill would limit the operation of mobile food vendors to no more than two weeks at special events permitted by Metro government. Vendors would have to notify the Health Department which events they would attend."
"The trouble with the legislation is that, intentionally or not, it hits minority-owned businesses the hardest because non-whites, especially Latinos, own most mobile food trailers in Davidson County, if not across the country."
In the Nashville Is Talking survey of recent Metro Health inspection scores, all the mobile trailer scores were between 85 and 100. In contrast, the following more traditional restaurants scored below 85:
BELLE MEADE BUFFET
CHILIS GRILL & BAR, WEST END
CRACKER BARREL, PERCY PRIEST
JUDGE BEANS BBQ
KRYSTAL CHARLOTTE AVE.
LONGHORN STEAK LYLE AVENUE
MCDONALDS DONELSON PK
MRS. WINNERS JEFFERSON ST.
RAND DINING HALL, VANDERBILT CAMPUS
SHONEY'S HWY 70 SOUTH
SHONEYS HARDING PLACE
The mobile scores in the Nashville Is Talking survey were those available from the health department's web site. There are many more mobile food stands in Nashville, some that have serious health violations and low scores. The Scene article points out that some mobile vendors have scored so low as to be closed by the health department, but that the closings show that the current system is working.
"Those not meeting minimum standards are shut down. So why close them all? Even some restaurateurs don’t see the need to close all mobile food vendors—even if a majority are having a problem conforming to health codes. 'The state of Tennessee has very thorough inspection laws,' says Mike Kelly of Jimmy Kelly’s Steakhouse, who is chairman of the Tennessee Restaurant Association. 'If they adhere to the guidelines, they should be able to do business.'"