City of Madison’s Vending Oversight Committee met Wednesday evening to discuss the fate of late-night vending and food carts on State and North Frances Street.
The Office of Business Resources Manager, Dan Kennelly, and street vending coordinator, Meghan Blake-Horst, presented a draft for an amendment to remove late-night vending from the downtown Madison area.
They hope to begin by only allowing vendors who have existing licenses from the past two years to remain. The proposed five-year plan would eventually eradicate all food carts from the State Street Mall area during late-night hours.
“The idea is to balance allowing vendors who are relying on late-night vending for their businesses to continue to do that for a period of time,” Kennelly said. “[And] to establish a time frame to make plans, because in five years this piece of your business will go away.”
Captain Jason Freedman and Lieutenant of Patrol Brian Austin presented the position of the Madison Police Department, arguing the safety concerns regarding this issue. The pair specifically referenced a dispute on Frances Street in October 2017 in which an individual pulled an assault rifle outside of a food cart.
Austin spoke about the increasing difficulty in this area during the late hours that led to the necessary addition of 14 extra patrol officers Friday and Saturday nights.
“The historical nature of this program has been problematic, probably since its inception,” Austin said.
By eliminating the sites available in these areas during the hours of 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., the street vending coordinator and Madison Police Force hope to reduce the amount of loitering and subsequent violent altercations in an area with such heavy foot traffic.
While the cost of partially limiting the income of a few late night vendors may be difficult, the overall dangers to the community posed by these food carts are more important to the city’s wellbeing, Kennelly and Blake-Horst said.
“We can’t continue to have these public safety issues year after year,” Kennelly said.
Kennelly and Blake-Horst plan to officially introduce the draft when City Council meets Feb. 27.