Owners of downtown area restaurants and late-night vending carts continued to butt heads over location and its effect on their businesses at a city committee meeting Wednesday.
The Vending Oversight Committee has been trying to come up with probable solutions to the sudden spike in late-night food carts since last fall, according to Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8.
Competition has especially risen on Broom Street, where Silver Mine Subs, Asian Kitchen and Pita Pit are located.
“We had no idea coming in this would be an issue,” Courtney Pawn, a Pita Pit manager, said. “We pay a huge portion of rent to be in a high traffic area.”
There have been up to six carts in front of Pita Pit, Pawn said, mostly during their busiest time such as summer and football seasons. She added some of these vendors then allow customers to use the restaurant’s trash and bathroom facilities. This has affected business, she said.
Pawn said the restaurant and the food carts worked together and had a better understanding of each other last year. The food carts respected the restaurant was there and had to stay in one spot, she said.
Steve Lawrence, owner of the Fried and Fabulous food cart, said he was concerned for his business as well. He described his customers as “creatures of habit,” who will not visit his business unless they know where it is. He said he did not want to move.
“[Moving] scares the crap out of me,” he said.
According to Pawn, the ideal solution would not allow food carts on Broom Street late at night and instead find a location for a food cart center.
Future renovations to Library Mall may allow this, but Resnick said these plans have yet to be discussed by the city council.
The committee considered several additional options to the problem, including expanding the number of areas food carts could position themselves, setting a minimum distance between a food cart and a restaurant or limiting the total number of food carts in the city.
Resnick said the decision for late-night food carts has yet to be made, and the committee will revisit it.
The committee also unanimously approved a proposal allowing all sidewalk cafes to serve alcohol until 1 a.m. throughout the city. Additionally, sidewalk cafes may stay open during a given business’s regular hours.
According to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, there has been confusion, especially among the police department, on the existing ordinance since the times restaurants must clear alcohol from the sidewalk vary throughout the city.
“My personal goal is to have a uniform ordinance throughout the city,” he said.
In the new proposal, all city restaurants would be required to clear alcohol from the table by 1:30 a.m., Resnick said. This would not apply to bars located in the neighborhood, he said.
The proposal is a great and strong compromise, Resnick said, adding that it should clear up any confusion and improve nightlife in the city.
If passed by the city attorney, Resnick said the committee will revisit proposal for a change in the sidewalk cafes ordinance will after it faces City Council.