The Bath House Cultural Center. (Photo courtesy of City of Dallas Sustainable Development and Construction.)

Update (Feb. 25): The Bath House is no longer being considered as a location for the pilot program. Read the most recent report here.

Mobile food units might be coming this summer to the Bath House Cultural Center.

It would be part of the City’s mobile food vending zone pilot program, which the Quality of Life, Arts and Culture committee heard an update on at the Feb. 22 meeting.

In September 2021, representatives from the Business Communities Mobile Food Unit Task Force briefed the committee and recommended changes to Chapter 17. The changes they suggested were to: redefine the mobile term in mobile food unit; restructure classes and streamline the permitting process; allow fresh food preparation; and reduce commissary visits from every day to once a week or as needed.

The task force said these modifications would increase diversity, remove barriers to small business ownership, increase healthy food options and make Dallas a food destination.

Ultimately, the advocates recommended that the City create a pilot mobile food vending zone to test those changes.

In January 2022, Code Compliance met with the committee and asked for more time to research best practices, particularly regarding how other cities regulate raw food preparation and define “mobile” for mobile food units. The department was in support of restructuring the class of permits available to vendors, reducing commissary visits and establishing the mobile food vending zone.

This week, the committee heard two proposed sites for the pilot program: the Bath House Cultural Center and the Pacific Plaza. These spots were chosen because of their proximity to an entertainment district and because they are located on City-owned property. The Bath House is outside the Central Business District, and it offers substantial foot traffic and parking spaces.

Other locations that were considered include City Hall Plaza, Exall Park and Woodall Rodgers Plaza. Several City Council members advocated for this program to be extended to locations in southwest and southeast Dallas to improve equity efforts.

Throughout the program, staff will take into consideration litter, noise, odor, parking and pedestrian access.

The briefing called for the program to last 60 days, but District 9 City Council member Paula Blackmon asked if it could be extended to 90 days. Rosa Fleming, the director of Convention and Event Services, said staff would look into that option.

The 60-day option was proposed because it would allow the City to use the special event permitting process; require the upkeep of litter and public health needs such as restrooms and hand-washing areas; and allow vendors to sell for longer than one hour. Each location would also undergo a public safety review.

District 14 City Council member Paul Ridley asked about the number of food trucks that will be allowed at each location. For the Bath House location, the number hasn’t been decided yet. But Convention and Event Services is working with the Dallas Park and Recreation Department to figure that out. Permitting will be the mechanism to enforce which and how many mobile food units can be at each site.

Members of the North Texas Food Truck Association will be invited to participate in and promote the program. Code Compliance has also provided a list of the current mobile food unit permit holders.

Throughout the pilot, the City will collect data from customers and vendors. Customers will be asked about their satisfaction with the food variety and truck locations and whether they think the vendors are following ordinances. Vendors will be asked about revenue generation.

Fleming said the plan is to implement the pilot in May and present the results of the program to the committee in August. This would come after Code Compliance returns to the committee in its March meeting to present changes.

One other piece of news that came out of the committee meeting was a discussion of short-term rentals.

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