Two downtown alders have proposed a compromise that would allow late-night food carts to continue to do business on Broom Street without damaging the business of nearby restaurants.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, is one of the alders who proposed the compromise. He said that, currently, late-night vending is legal on Broom Street, but two area restaurants, Pita Pita and Silver Mine Subs, have voiced concerns about late-night food carts on the block. The restaurants’ owners have said the food carts are creating unfair competition for the brick-and-mortar restaurants and taking away from their profits, he said.
Verveer said this compromise, which he made with Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, would prohibit late-night vending on a portion of the 400 block of North Broom Street. He said three vending spots would be eliminated and ten vending spots would remain.
Verveer said the main concern is that food carts do not park directly in front of the restaurants. He said food carts must be located in a parking spot, pay a fee to the city and follow other city regulations.
The Vending Oversight Committee and City Council will still have to approve the compromise, Verveer said. He said Steve Lawrence, owner of the food cart Fried and Fabulous, has been acting as a spokesperson for late-night food carts and approved of the compromise. Verveer said he has not yet spoken to the owners of the two restaurants.
Lawrence said the alders’ compromise would allow him to stay in business.
Verveer said Pita Pit brought the complaint to the Vending Oversight Committee last semester when Banzo, a food cart that frequently parks on Library Mall, experimented with late-night vending. Banzo, which has a nearly identical menu to Pita Pit, parked on the 400 block of Broom and directly in front of Pita Pit one night, Verveer said.
“I believe the prudent course of action is for the Vending Oversight Committee and City Council to accept this compromise,” Verveer said.
Lawrence said his cart follows late-night vending regulations and the Dane County Health Department’s regulations. He said he posted a letter on Facebook in response to the restaurants’ complaints and had received a positive response from the community.
Lawrence criticized the restaurants’ attempts to limit food carts on the block.
“If you publicly advocate for no carts on Broom Street and no new vending zones, your version of compromise is to put us out of business,” he said.
Verveer said a petition for Fried and Fabulous on change.org has already received hundreds of signatures.
Lawrence said he wants to have a discussion with Pita Pit and Silver Mine, but they have not been responsive and have not come out in support of the compromise.
On their Facebook page, Silver Mine said food carts have an unfair advantage in that they do not have the same expenses associated with leasing buildings for restaurants. They said they would like to see stricter regulations on how many vendors can be located on Broom Street at a time and where they can be parked.
“If the Vending Oversight Committee decides late-night food carts shall remain in operation, regulations need to be put in place so food carts and restaurants can both succeed,” Silver Mine said in their Facebook post.
Verveer said food carts are also allowed to be on Library Mall and the 100 and 300 blocks of Johnson Street, which are the blocks on either side of State Street.
“Food carts want to be near where a higher density of customers are,” Verveer said.
City Life Editor Allie Johnson contributed to this story.