A crowd of students turned out to a city committee meeting Wednesday to voice their support for creating more room for food carts to set up shop on State Street.
Proposed changes would include the reconfiguration of locations in which late night vendors can park. Seventy spaces have been proposed to the committee as possible vending spots.
Students showed their support for local food cart businesses at the meeting by holding up signs that said “food cart freedom” and “we heart freedom.”
The concerns expressed about food carts included noise and crowd concerns, issues with restricting the fire lane at the area between the Statesider and Towers apartment buildings on State Street and problems with trash from food cart waste.
In response to the argument regarding noise issues, multiple students stood up and said the downtown area is not “serene” at all. The noisy and lively atmosphere has more to do with the bar scenes and UW’s “party school” status than because of the food carts, they said.
Jacob Beckert, a UW student, said as a triple major, straight-A student, he does not feel the need to be protected from food cart disruptions. The area is already “ridiculous” as it is, he said.
“I have one message. Stop it, just stop it,” he said. “They’re delusional by thinking this area is serene and the only thing keeping these hoards of students from mobbing downtown and being loud is a lack of food carts.”
Rachel Berman, a UW student who lives in Statesider, said the food carts give her a sense of security when walking home after a night of going out. She said they create populated areas and provide sober eyes on the drunken crowds of State Street.
“I would still much rather go to State Street to get to a food cart than Broom street. It’s scary and dark. It is unsafe,” she said.
Jessica Wartenweiler, owner of the Curd Girl cart, said the current ordinances cramming food carts onto Broom Street are not working. There are often frustrations that she and other food cart owners come across when it comes to parking, she said.
Steve Lawrence, owner of Fried and Fabulous, spoke in support of food cart interests and was met with applause from the large amount of UW students in the room after arguing that food carts create safer environments.
Lawrence also addressed the concerns about keeping fire lanes clear and said the proposed food cart sites would not interfere with squad cars or fire trucks.
“You could drive two squad cars side by side in the fire lane even if all five of the spots were being used,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said the concerns about food cart trash was a solvable problem and he proposed a $1,000 fine as a reprimand.
“To deal with trash and regulate the trash, the solution to all the trash is perhaps more garbage cans, not banning food-to-go,” Lawrence said.
Final decisions will be made at Vending Oversight Committee meeting in February.