Following a harsh winter for business, food cart owners urged support for a drafted ordinance that would regulate late night hours and locations for vendors in the campus and downtown areas at the Vending Oversight Committee meeting Wednesday.
The ordinance would require food and drink vendors to obtain a late night vending license to operate in 10 designated spaces between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Steve Lawrence, owner of the Fried and Fabulous food cart, was the most outspoken vendor at the committee meeting, encouraging the city’s support after a winter that did not bode well for local outdoor businesses.
“The business isn’t there, the numbers don’t work and what I really urge this committee to do is not wait,” Lawrence said. “Please, pass this system, take a chance, try something new.”
Ariel and Lacey Pesce, who own the La Empanada food truck, said the winter has taken a toll on their lives as well, and more options and locations would benefit them and the other vendors.
Pesce said her part-time teaching income has had to fund the food truck after the weather caused a number of problems for their business, and both asked for the committee’s support in helping vendors succeed.
“I’m urging you to give us some more choices. We need to make up for this winter badly. We’ve got it all slammed on us at once,” Ariel Pesce said.
The areas currently zoned for vending include 10 sites on the 300 and 500 blocks of North Frances Street, the 400 block of West Gilman Street, the 400 block of North Broom Street and the intersection of University Avenue and Lake Street.
The map of the proposed late night vendor locations includes space for eight large carts and two push carts, although one more large cart could be added if no push carts apply for licenses, Warren Hansen, street vending coordinator, said.
“I think what we have here on this map is really good for us, and any more time we spend debating, this will have a dire effect,” Jessica Wartenweiler, owner of the Curd Girl food trcuk, said.
Location priorities are determined by a seniority system, according to the ordinance, and once all spots are filled for late night vendors, the same system will be used on a waiting list for new businesses trying to get licensed.
Hansen said if the ordinance proves successful, the committee may have to adjust the system if established day-time vendors with years of business decide to focus on the late night crowd as well.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the vendors were also willing to accept an increased penalty for littering.
The committee voted to amend the drafted ordinance to adjust the closing time for late night vendors from 6 a.m. to 4 a.m. The vendors in attendance said 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. was a good time frame for students and adults going to and returning from downtown bars.
No date has been set for further discussion on the amended draft of the ordinance.