After considerable discussion, the Vandalia City Council on Monday voted to postpone action on an ordinance establishing and governing licenses for mobile food vendors.
That discussion included rules on placement of food trucks and the affect on local restaurants.
The ordinance covers wheeled or towed vehicles, including food carts, food trucks and ice cream trucks.
A mobile food vendor license is required for anyone selling food for human consumption, except for:
• City-sponsored special events where a fee is required or assessed.
• Private catered events held on private property when there are no sales to the general public.
• Other special events by resolution or majority vote of he city council.
Mobile food vendors are required to be permitted by the Fayette County Health Department and subject to state and county health codes, and are subject to inspections.
A food vendor license is for one year, with the fee being $250.
Temporary vendor licenses will be available for city-approved or -sponsored special events for up to four consecutive days, with the fee being $100.
Mobile food units are to be allowed only in permitted locations or with permission of a private property owner.
Units are not to obstruct a public way, impair movement of vehicles or pedestrians or pose a hazard to public safety, and cannot park, stand or operate within 500 feet of the address point of a restaurant, unless it is affiliated with that restaurant. (Aldermen discussed changing that distance to 100 or 150 feet.)
The administrator of food vendor licenses is to prepare a map showing areas that are suitable for mobile food unit operations, and to have that map available on the city website.
Hours of operation for mobile food units are limited to 7 a.m.-10 p.m., except for special events covered in the ordinance.
The lengthy discussion included remarks about the effect of food trucks on downtown restaurants, and Amy O’Dell of O’Dell’s Family Favorites being involved in those discussions.
Alderman Steve Barker said, “We’ve got a really nice situation with the patio down there, and with the crowd we’re having, it’s not affecting our businesses or anything like that, but it’s providing the service.
“And, we’re going to get a fee out of these people, and one that is down there has been buying all of their food local, so we are getting some sort of sales tax, out of that vendor,” he said.
Alderman Ken Hubler said he has had some downtown restaurant owners say that it is affecting their business.
“All I’m trying to do is protect these restaurants,” Hubler said. “They’ve got a lot of money invested in their buildings,” he said, adding that food vendors will pay a small fee and don’t have as much invested in their business.
Once it was mentioned to include two restaurants in further discussions, the idea of inviting all owners of downtown restaurants was broached.
Alderman Joel Rebbe was opposed to that.
“This creates competition, so what – that’s what business is about,” he said. “Why are we including other businesses.”
Alderman Dorothy Crawford agreed. “If someone were to come in and put a restaurant in, literally, the shared wall with a Thai restaurant, would we tell them they can’t do it because they’re affecting business downtown.
“Of course we wouldn’t. So, is it any different – this is a business, run by a local businesswoman, using local products and employing local people. How is this any different, other than fact that it’s on wheels,” Crawford said.
O’Dell said she felt that her food truck is being singled out, and emphasized that she lives in the community, buys her food locally and pays local taxes.
She questioned whether the 150-foot setback requirement would allow her to continue to operate downtown.
“What you’re doing is preventing me from being able to be up at the patio at all,” O’Dell said.
City Attorney Ryan Connor said, “I haven’t measured it off and I would just say in response to that, that this was as a result of a number of food trucks, as I understand it, so this is not aimed at any specific mobile food vendors.
“This happened in years past (and) it’s just finally now kind of come to a situation where these have to be regulated, because, as the mayor said, we’ve had some right of way issues and we really needed to from a safety perspective put something in place.
“But, I will just confess (that) I haven’t been out there with a tape measure; I have no idea if that would, if that would prevent that or not,” Connor said.
“I could see not parking in front of those brick and mortar restaurants,” O’Dell said, “but to prevent me from parking in front of the patio, that have been things that I’ve been invited by, and to have the only other business that I would be by me, the Copper Penny is OK with me being there.
“I mean, the local town that I live in is restricting me almost to not do business,” she said.