|MOBILE FOOD VENDOR PILOT PROGRAM FAQs
| Patricia Robledo, Business Liaison
City County Building
400 Main St. - Room 660B
Knoxville, TN 37902
Q: What is the City of Knoxville Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program?
A: The Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program was established in April 2014 to allow Mobile Food Vendors to operate in public rights-of-way and on private property under certain guidelines. Additionally, the Pilot Program will:
Provide the City with evaluative data and feedback before adopting a permanent policy;
Allow flexibility to adjust operations as needed;
Acquaint the public with the Pilot Program; and
Allow the City to estimate costs and staffing needs
Q: What does the City of Knoxville consider a Mobile Food Vendor Unit?
A: A Mobile Food Vending Unit is an enclosed unit, truck, or trailer, or similar vehicle-mounted unit that is:
Mobile or capable of being moved by a licensed motor vehicle;
Independent with respect to water, waste water, and power utilities;
Used for the preparation, sale, or donation of food products and beverages; and
No larger than thirty-five (35) feet.
Q: Is there a local Mobile Food Vendor association?
A: Yes - the Knoxville Mobile Restaurant Association. You may contact Edwin Wong at 423-967-9664 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the association.
Q: I’m interested in operating a Mobile Food Vending Unit in Knoxville. What’s the first step?
A: Before submitting an application to the City of Knoxville, all Mobile Food Vending Units need to comply with the Food Service Establishment Rules and Regulations of the Tennessee Department of Health. If you reside in Knox County, please contact:
Knox County Health Department
Environmental Health Division
140 Dameron Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37917
If you do not reside in Knox County, please contact your local health department or health authority.
Q: Other than the health department and the City of Knoxville Office of Business support, what other agency do I need to contact?
A: You need to contact the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) to apply for a Grease Control Program Permit. Please call the KUB Grease Hotline at (865) 594-8337 to start the process. Based on the information you provide in the application, KUB will determine the size of the grease control equipment that you need. There will be some other requirements, such as regularly maintaining the equipment and posting a cleaning log of the grease control equipment according to a schedule set by KUB. You will also need to address with KUB your plans for disposal of the contents removed from the grease control equipment. More information is available at the following KUB web pages:
Grease Control Guide for Food Service Facilities
KUB Hot Topics
If you would like more information about KUB's Grease Control Program requirements, please call 865-594-8337 or email GreaseControlProgram@kub.org
Q: How do I apply for a Mobile Food Vending Permit?
A: Please download the Mobile Food Unit Permit Application, complete it and send it along with any additional required information to:
400 Main Street
City & County Building #660B
After the Office of Business Support receives the application and all required information, the Plans Reviews and Inspections Department will administer the Permit.
Q: How much does the City of Knoxville Mobile Food Vendor Permit cost?
A: There are two types of Vendor Permits. A Right of Way Permit is for Vendors who wish to operate in the Zones and may wish to operate on private property, too. A Private Property Permit is for Vendors who wish to operate only on private property. The Right of Way Permit is $400.00 and the Private Property Permit is $200.00. The Permit fees cannot be pro-rated and are non-refundable once the Plans Review and Inspections Department issues the Mobile Food Vending Unit Permit.
Q: Do I need to get a Mobile Food Vending Permit for my ice cream truck?
A: The City recognizes that traditional ice cream trucks use a different business model than "food trucks." By traditional ice cream trucks, the City is referring to those trucks that cruise through neighborhoods and stop for only a brief period of time to serve their product. The City does not require traditional ice cream trucks to participate in the Pilot Program and obtain Vendor Permits. If your ice cream truck will be parked, but operating as part of a special event, you probably will not need a Mobile Food Vendor Permit - contact the coordinator of the special event to find out. However, if such an ice cream truck (or other frozen treat vendor) would like to park and operate in the designated Mobile Food Vending Zones or on private property, the ice cream truck will be required to comply with this Pilot Program.
Q: Will my Mobile Food Unit need to be inspected by the City of Knoxville?
A: Yes. All Mobile Food Vending Units must be inspected prior to operation and the issuance of a City of Knoxville Mobile Food Unit Permit. In all instances, the Mobile Food Vending Unit will have to be inspected by the Knoxville Fire Department. Additionally, if the Unit will be using shore power, the Unit will need to be inspected by a City of Knoxville electrical inspector. Inspections are scheduled at the Coliseum at 9:00 am on the first and third Tuesday of every month. The Knoxville Fire Department and an electrical inspector will contact you to arrange your required inspections. After the Unit is permitted, the City reserves the right to conduct additional inspections to ensure compliance with the Pilot Program and the City's ordinances.
Q: What equipment does the City of Knoxville Fire Department require?
A: The Knoxville Fire Department requires all Units to be equipped with a 2-A:10-B:C 5lb fire extinguisher that is certified annually by a licensed company. Additionally, Units that produce grease laden vapors (e.g. those units with deep fat fryers or flat top griddles), must have a listed fire suppression system certified bi-annually by a licensed company, supplemented by a certified K-Class fire extinguisher.
Q: What does the Electrical Inspector look for?
A: Mobile food units with the capability of utilizing shore power need to be inspected annually for:
Proper sized overcurrent protection for all subpanels and appliances
Appropriate attachment caps and/or disconnects for equipment
Hard-service feeder cords without splices or damaged insulation (taping not permitted)
No exposed branch-circuit conductors or cables
Smooth conduits with compression fittings where exposed in food prep areas
Proper bonding of all panels, equipment, body and frame to equipment grounding conductor of feeder.
GFCI protection on all 15 or 20 amp, 120 volt receptacles
Covered lamps in all food prep areas
UL listing of all equipment
Shut down operation of all electrical devices and equipment under hood(s) when fire suppression system is activated
Proper working condition of any portable generators and transfer equipment
Q: What additional information will the City of Knoxville need before issuing a permit?
Completed City of Knoxville Mobile Food Vending Unit Permit Application
Appropriate permit fee, by cash, credit card, or check payable to the City of Knoxville
Copy of Tennessee Department of Health License
Knoxville Utilities Board Grease Control Program Permit Number
Copy of business license(s)
Copy of a valid government-issued driver’s license for all drivers
Mobile Food Vending Unit information, including vehicle registration number, make, model, floor plans, equipment, dimensions and color photographs (front, both sides, rear) of Unit
Proof of Commercial Insurance
Proof of Automobile Insurance
Proof of Workers’ Compensation Insurance, if applicable
Spill Response Plan & Kit
If operating on private property, a letter of permission from the private property operator
Q: What type of business licenses do I need?
A: If your business is within Knoxville city limits, you need a City of Knoxville business license and a Knox County business license. If your business is outside Knox County, you need to check the requirements in your jurisdiction.
Q: What permits must be displayed in my Mobile Food Vending Unit?
A: You must visibly display the Health Department License and the City of Knoxville Mobile Food Vending Permit. Additionally, if you are required to have a Site Permit, you must also display it. Finally, if you are operating on private property, you are not required to display the letter of permission, but you should have it on hand.
Q: Can I operate my Mobile Food Vending Unit in City streets?
A: You may only operate in the City streets in Mobile Food Vending Zones during the times permitted. You must reserve your use of Zones through the Knoxville Mobile Restaurant Association. Please contact Edwin Wong at 423-967-9664 or email@example.com.
Q: Where can I operate my Mobile Food Vending Unit other than in the designated Mobile Food Vending Zones?
A: Mobile vending on private property is only permitted in Commercial Districts and Form Based Code Districts as defined in the City of Knoxville Zoning Code. If you are parking your Unit outside of the designated (i.e., striped) parking spaces, a Site Permit is required. If your Unit is using shore power on private property, the electrical hook-up must be inspected and approved by the Plans Review and Inspections Department.
Q: I am the owner or operator of a private property and would like to invite a Mobile Food Vending Units onto my property. What do I need to do?
A: Mobile Vending on private property is only permitted in Commercial Districts and Form Based Code Districts as defined in the City of Knoxville Zoning Code. If the Units will be operating on your property in designated (i.e., striped) parking spaces and using onboard generators, you don't need to do anything extra. However, if the Units will be operating outside of designated parking spaces or using shore power, additional approvals will be required. If the Units are outside of the designated parking spaces, a Site Permit is required. If the Units are using shore power on your property, the electrical hook-up must be inspected and approved by the Plans Review and Inspections Department.
Q: How can I set up my Mobile Food Vending Unit at Special Events?
A: You need to contact the person in charge of the special event to be a vendor, but you probably do not need a Mobile Food Vending Permit. For information about special events in the City, including a calendar of events, please visit:
Q: Can I operate my Mobile Food Vending Unit in a City of Knoxville park?
A: Yes, but prior permission must be obtained from the Parks and Recreation Department regarding your Unit's location and scheduling. If you wish to operate your Mobile Food Vending Unit in a City of Knoxville park, please contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 865-215-2091.
Q: Can I use signs to advertise my business?
A: Yes, a Unit is limited to signs mounted to the exterior of the mobile food establishment and one (1) sandwich board sign with dimensions no larger than twenty-five inches by forty-five inches (25" x 45"). All signs mounted on the Unit shall be secured and mounted flat against the Unit and shall not project more than six inches (6") from the exterior of the Unit. Sandwich board signs shall not obstruct or impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Q: May I use amplification equipment on or around my Unit?
A: It depends. If you are operating your Unit in a Zone in the right-of-way, you may not use amplification equipment to project any sounds, music, or voices. If you are operating on private property, you may use amplification equipment, but be aware that the City will respond to any complaints about noise and may enforce its noise ordinance, if appropriate.
Q: May I operate my Mobile Food business from my house?
A: No. Specific districts govern any activity or use associated with operating a Mobile Food Vending Unit (e.g., food preparation, waste disposal, produce deliveries). Residential districts strictly limit the operation of home occupations, as defined in Article V, Section 12 of the City of Knoxville Zoning Ordinance.
Q: Where can I access all the rules of the Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program?
A: In the Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program, you can find detailed information including definitions, permitting process, parking zones, indemnity, insurance requirements, and much more.
Q: Why are there so many regulations?
A: It may seem like there are a lot of rules for Mobile Food Vending Units; however, most of these rules - such as the stormwater regulations, electrical inspections, and zoning restrictions - already exist in the City of Knoxville's ordinances. The laws relevant to Mobile Food Vending Units have simply been compiled into one document for convenience. Most importantly, though, the City of Knoxville wants everyone to have a clear understanding of how the Pilot Program will operate.
Q: Who should I contact if I have further questions?
A: While the Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program is a joint effort of numerous City departments, the program is administered by the Office of Business Support. If you have questions, please contact Patricia Robledo, Business Liaison, at 865-215-3155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.