Council weighs restaurant tax on food trucks

Posted at 11:18 PM, Jul 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-20 00:22:03-04

The 2.5-percent restaurant tax that Omahans pay when they go out to eat will stay put as Mayor Jean Stothert said there will be no decrease in the tax.

The taxes brings in roughly 30-million dollars a year and it appears there’s no turning back, at least now in reducing the tax.

Now that tax may be imposed on the food trucks in the city.

At the Omaha city council on Tuesday, members debated whether or not the tax should be pressed on the food trucks.

“We want that level playing field,” said council member Garry Gernandt.

“Wiser, safer to get this over with,” said member Franklin Thompson.

Most of the food trucks would agree to pay the tax, but would also want fair regulations too.

“We're happy to pay the tax but we want to see the drafts the city is putting together that we're going to get a fair share,” said Kelly Keegan with the Food Truck Association.

Looming over the city is a lawsuit from Michael’s Cantina in the Old Market, wanting the food trucks to pay the tax, council members say that’s fuel to the decision that awaits them.

“We certainly want to show a court of law the city is not lollygagging, we are taking this seriously,” said Gernandt.

Complicating this issue though, are the lack of food truck regulations. Nicole Jesse is the owner and General Manager of La Casa Pizzeria and they own both a brick and mortar store and have a food truck.

“What few there are-not everybody is on the same page-so that's an issue,” said Jesse.

Such as how many feet the trucks can be outside of a restaurant or being able to park in certain locations.

“Nobody wants to have a food truck pull up right in front of your restaurant,” said Jesse.

While this additional tax would likely increase the price you pay at your favorite food truck, Jesse said it’s only fair, “Do we like the restaurant tax-absolutely not however it's here, and I don't see it going away-so if you're going to have it, it should be applied fairly.”

The city council is expected to vote on at least one of the phases next week, most likely implementing the tax, then later discuss the regulations regarding the trucks.

There’s a food truck rally on Thursday outside of the Dale Clark Library from 11am-1pm.