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Sea-Tac Airport food trucks pull out of the lot after only 2 weeks on the job

The People’s Burger, owned by Farshid Varamioni, was one of the food trucks that participated in a pilot program at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s cellphone waiting lot. The city of SeaTac shut down the program after two weeks.
The People’s Burger, owned by Farshid Varamioni, was one of the food trucks that participated in a pilot program at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s cellphone waiting lot. The city of SeaTac shut down the program after two weeks. Port of Seattle

Food trucks at Sea-Tac Airport are harder to find this week than lost luggage.

On October 2, the airport began a three month pilot program to park food trucks in Sea-Tac’s cellphone waiting lot. They provided meals to drivers and others waiting to pick up passengers.

It lasted all of two weeks.

On October 13, the airport was sent a cease and desist letter by the city of SeaTac. Food trucks are not allowed in the city — and that includes the airport.

“We want to be a good neighbor and good partner so we shut down after we received the letter,” airport spokesman Perry Cooper said Tuesday.

“Bottom line is that the Port failed to coordinate with the city about their food truck program, (it slipped through the cracks) and by city ordinance, food trucks are not permitted in the city of SeaTac,” Deputy Mayor Pam Fernald wrote Tuesday in an email to The News Tribune.

The trucks were apparently as popular as free upgrades to first class.

“We’ve heard some really good feedback from our travelers in the cellphone lot,” Cooper said.

Lori Johnson organized the trucks, one each around noon and the other in the evening. Johnson, the executive director of the Washington State Food Truck Association, said the nine trucks were welcomed.

“We got an incredible amount of positive feedback from people in the lot,” Johnson said.

The misunderstanding occurred over an agreement the airport has with the city that covers food establishments. That agreement does not mention food trucks.

“Bottom line is, we should have checked that box to check in with the city,” Cooper said.

Johnson said she thought her group had done all its homework.

“It was our understanding from the Port of Seattle, over six months ago, that the cellphone waiting lot was Port property and autonomous from the City of SeaTac,” Johnson said.

Johnson commended the airport’s work to remedy the situation.

After the food trucks put SeaTac in the rear-view mirror the airport met with the city to smooth out issues.

“We are working with them to hopefully get those questions resolved,” Cooper said.

In a “Food Truck FAQs” provided by Fernald the city states that food trucks “could provide unfair competition with local restaurants.”

“We were not hanging our hat on that,” added Jeff Robinson, the city’s community and economic development director. That language came from from a past City Council, he said.

Robinson said the city will be reviewing codes and determining amendments.

“We’re hoping to be able to make some recommendations later this year or early next,” Robinson said

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

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