Georgia food truck owners welcomed news the state House unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would allow them to sell food anywhere in the state with a single permit.
Currently, food trucks must pass a health inspection and obtain a permit for every county where they want to operate, costing some small business owners tens of thousands of dollars and many hours.
“The fees are just astronomical if you want to operate legally — without going behind the scenes and just setting up on private properties,” said Tameka Thomas, owner and operator of Funnel Cake Guys, an Atlanta-based food truck.
The proposed changes “would be an amazing benefit to everyone in the food truck industry here,” said Thomas, who also works for the Food Truck Association of Georgia.
In an interview, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Houston Gaines said food trucks are a place to innovate, but many owners are hindered by high fees and too much red tape.
“It’s going to help these food truck owners produce a little more food and spend more time with their customers instead of having to spend time with the government,” said Gaines, a Republican from Athens.
The main provision of the bill is that food trucks would only have to get a permit in their home county, not in every county in which they operate. All the other counties — Georgia has 159 — have to accept that permit and not require their own.
Any county would still be allowed to conduct a health inspection, but the amount they could charge for those inspections would be limited. The counties also would be able to verify the permits and other paperwork using a Department of Public Health database.
Gaines said many interest groups, including the Food Truck Association and the Georgia Restaurant Association, contributed to the proposal.
“We have statewide food service standards that should be able to cross jurisdictional lines so that companies can flourish in the state of Georgia,” said Rep. Kasey Carpenter, a Republican from Dalton, during the House vote.
Chris Harris, the owner and operator of Atlanta-based Uptown Food Truck, said he’d be happy if the proposal becomes law because he would no longer have to seek permits in different counties on his days off.
“For years we’ve been paying from county to county, fee to fee,” Harris said. “The bill will help us thrive, and it will help Georgia businesses.”
The measure now goes to the Senate for committee assignment. If it passes the Senate and is signed into law, it would go into effect on January 1, 2023.