VIDEO: Boulder Proposes Rules to Allow Food Trucks

Rayme Rossello serves food to one of her regular customers on East Pearl Street in Boulder on Thursday. Rossello is the owner of the big pink Comida food truck that sells Mexican food around Boulder. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

By Heath Urie  | Camera Staff Writer

On Friday afternoon, dozens of hungry office workers at 55th Street and Flatiron Parkway took a break from their computers and phone calls, and strolled outside to the parking lot.

Their mid-day destination: a rumbling pink truck in which Rayme Rossello was cooking up tacos, gorditas and Mexican hot chocolate.

“It’s like something you would get from a restaurant,” said Alison Dillman, a Lyons resident who works in one of the nearby office buildings and stopped for lunch.

Rayme Rossello serves food to one of her regular customers on East Pearl Street in Boulder on Thursday. Rossello is the owner of the big pink Comida food truck that sells Mexican food around Boulder. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

Dillman is a regular at the Comida food truck, which Rossello spent $100,000 to convert out of a DHL delivery van. Rossello is among a growing number of chefs turning to upscale mobile food vending, which is a growing national trend.

But in the city of Boulder, selling food from a vehicle is illegal. For now, the handful of food trucks that have sprung up around the city in recent months are allowed to sell their food as “caterers” on private property.

However, the city is looking to become more inviting to such vendors. Boulder officials are crafting a plan to allow food trucks to sell their goods in a variety of public and private places.

“Boulder is known as a restaurant and entertainment district, and we really want to try and support that and make it easier for people to do business,” said Molly Winter, director of Boulder’s Downtown and University Hill Management Division.

Winter said Boulder is behind the ball when it comes to encouraging food trucks. Places like Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., she said, are popular destinations for followers of gourmet food trucks.

“It is a national trend,” she said. “It’s a great thing, particularly for areas where residents don’t have food options nearby.”

Winter is now drafting changes to the city code that would allow food trucks to operate legally, although the details of exactly where they’ll be allowed isn’t yet known. Winter said she’s working to address concerns among some brick-and-mortar restaurants about keeping trucks separated from their customer base.

But Winter said she’s confident the city will reach a “win-win” ordinance, which is scheduled to have public input during meetings with the Boulder Planning Board in March and with the City Council in May.

“We don’t have everything worked out yet, but we’re close,” she said.

Rossello, who uses Facebook and Twitter to tell her followers where she’ll be on any given lunch hour, has worked to get the city to recognize the growing industry.

Jovvee, left, and Rayme Rossello prepare food out of their big pink Comida truck Thursday for crowds on East Pearl Street in Boulder. City officials are crafting a plan to allow food trucks to sell their goods in a variety of public and private places. Currently, food trucks are allowed to operate as 'caterers' on private property. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

Within a couple weeks of her May 17 debut last year, Rossello and her two employees were approached by police as they served food on Pearl Street, west of the pedestrian mall, and told that they were in violation of the city’s vending regulations.

Rossello said she thinks the city will be able to set fair rules that will help her reach new customers.

“It would mean the ability to get to more people who don’t have to drive to us,” she said.

The Boulder-based Walnut Café also began operating its own food truck in December.

Ash Beckham, one of three partners in the project, said food trucks are the “trendiest thing that’s going on in the industry.”

She said the city that was named “America’s Foodiest Town” in 2010 by Bon Appétit magazine should be on the cutting edge.

“There are plenty of places in Boulder where food just isn’t available,” Beckham said.

The Walnut Café truck, she said, would eventually target the late-night crowd in Boulder and office parks where it isn’t a close walk to food.

Hosea Rosenberg, winner of season five of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” reality show and a former chef at Jax Fish House in Boulder, also has a food truck in operation called StrEat Chefs.

City officials said they’ve heard from additional people who are interested in starting their own food trucks.

That would be just fine with Sam Porter, who stops by a food truck in Boulder about once a week.

“It’s really convenient,” she said. “It makes it feel more urban, too.”