City Council Unanimously Adopts Food Truck Ordinance

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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News item

City Council Unanimously Adopts Food Truck Ordinance

Posted: 04/29/2016
Knoxville’s City Council on Tuesday, April 26, voted unanimously to adopt a permanent ordinance regulating food trucks.
Tuesday’s vote was the mandatory second vote required to enact the ordinance. At its April 12 meeting, the Council had made numerous amendments to the proposed Mobile Food Unit (MFU) ordinance, including requiring a 100-foot setback from the boundary of any residentially-zoned property for any food truck with a meat smoker.

The Council also decided that any MFU without a smoker will operate following the setbacks established in the base zone, rather than adhering to an across-the-board 100-foot setback from residential properties, as initially had been proposed.
The adopted final version of the ordinance is posted on the City’s website at The ordinance will be housed in Chapter 16 of the City Code and will be appropriately numbered by Municode once codified.

After a two-year successful experience with a pilot program for food trucks, the permanent MFU ordinance was drafted late last year. Public comment was solicited, and thoughtful feedback from citizens prompted a series of amendments to the proposed ordinance, first by City staff and then by City Council.

The MFU pilot program designated times and specific zones in commercial and form-based districts where food trucks could operate. Zones were established in downtown Knoxville, and, for the past two years, mobile food vendors have been delivering a wide variety of meals following a publicly-posted schedule. Mobile food vendors also have been allowed to set up, with the owners’ approval, in private parking lots in commercial districts and during special events.

The permanent ordinance, which replaces the regulations set up for the pilot program, continues to allow mobile food vendors to operate in similar fashion – plus, it expands the program to allow food trucks in other districts under certain closely-regulated conditions.

Additionally, permit fees have been reduced as part of the new ordinance. The pilot program included a tiered fee system; MFUs operating only on private property paid $200 annually, and those operating on private property and in designated zones in the public right-of-way paid $400 annually. Under the new ordinance, MFUs will pay an initial $200 annual fee and an annual $50 renewal fee. MFUs desiring to operate during a one-time event may apply for a temporary permit at a cost of $75; these MFUs must still comply with all MFU requirements.

Since the City launched its Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program in April 2014, 32 food trucks have completed the application and inspection process, and another four have applications pending.