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Wacky Waffles food truck owner brings concerns to city council

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Newton suggests changes to food vendor ordinance

Pizza, Mexican food, Greek food, hot dogs, cotton candy, and waffles. Food trucks cater to all sorts of cravings, and when multiple mobile food vendors come together, people can eat whatever their heart desires.

Or at least, they can in big cities.

Local food trucker owner Billy Newton, who runs the Wacky Waffles food truck, says that Gallup’s outdated vendor ordinance prevents food truck owners from growing their businesses and being successful.

During an Aug. 8 work session, Newton spoke in front of the city council to voice his concerns and recommend some changes to the ordinance that dictates what a food truck can and can’t do, which was last updated in 2011.

“It was written at a time when food trucks weren’t really a thing in Gallup,” Gallup’s Planning and Development Director C.B. Strain said. “They weren’t really popular, we had maybe one, maybe two at the most. {The ordinance] was geared more toward other types of vendors, such as the food carts you put on a street.”

In a letter addressed to City Clerk Alfred Albeita, Newton listed the sections of the ordinance he wanted to see changed.

One of Newton’s major concerns was the time restrictions put on food truck vendors. The current ordinance only allows food trucks to be open from 8 am – 8 pm.

As a food truck that sells waffle sandwiches, most of Newton’s menu items include breakfast foods. But as he explained to the council, with how the ordinance is currently written, he typically doesn’t start selling food until about 10 am because it takes a long time to get everything set up and the food prepared.

“When it’s looked in that light where we want to do things safely, that leaves [only] a couple hours to sell and then tear down for the end of the day or when we move on to another location,” Newton said.

Newton also voiced concern with the 8 pm closing time, saying that since the ordinance only allows food trucks on private property, many of the businesses that hire him want him to stay open later.



Another time restriction allows food vendors to be in one space for only four hours. Councilor Sarah Piano, Dist. 3, said she sees food trucks break that rule often.

“I’m not going to call out certain food trucks, but I definitely see food trucks that are at a location for definitely more than four hours,” Piano said. “I’m fine with it personally, but then … we’re not equally keeping people accountable.”

Code enforcement officers only pay food truck vendors a visit when a complaint has been made against them. However, Strain said they aren’t high on the officers’ list of concern.

“As code enforcers, [food vendors] are way low on our list. We have more important things to do than harass food vendors,” Strain said. “… It’s a small town [though, and] people don’t like competition. They’re going to call and rat out their competition and tell us to check them out.”



Newton isn’t opposed to sharing space with his competition.

The current ordinance places stipulations on where food trucks can park and operate. The trucks can only operate on private property, and those private property owners are not allowed to have multiple food trucks on their property at a time.

Newton argued that many local businesses, such as the Amigo car dealerships, could host five or six food truck vendors.

Strain appeared to be in agreement with this idea, although he did mention the businesses’ parking availability. As an example, he explained that if a business is required to have 25 parking spots, a food truck wouldn’t be allowed to take up 10 of those spots.

However, if the business has more than the required amount of parking spots, Strain said putting a food truck in the parking lot wouldn’t be a problem. It really all just comes down to safety.

“We don’t want to make it hard on [food truck vendors], but we still have to make sure the public is safe,” Strain said.

Strain and Newton both mentioned food truck parks, places in big cities such as Albuquerque that serve as a designated place for food trucks.

To allow for more space, Newton suggested doing away with the language in the ordinance that limits food trucks to private property. He noted that public places such as Ford Canyon Park would be a great place to set up a food truck.

He also proposed the idea of doing a “Food Truck Friday.”

Overall, Newton said his main goal is to just make things easier for code enforcers and food truck owners alike.

“A lot of my goal here is to make this easy for code enforcers. There’s a lot of arbitrary codes I see in [the ordinance] that I think could be removed…,” Newton said.

Strain agreed that the ordinance needed to be updated.

“I think food trucks are here to stay, I don’t think they’re going anywhere, and I think they’re a good thing for the community,” Strain said.

For now, City of Gallup staff will take a look at the ordinance and take Newton’s ideas into consideration. They will come back to the council with some changes to the ordinance, and the council will discuss those at a future city council meeting.

By Molly Ann Howell
Managing Editor