Mobile Food Trucks Must Navigate The Speed Bumps of Multiple Regulations

By Erika Miller | STLBeacon.org

Mobile food trucks are gaining a foothold in some parts of the area (See Mobile trucks pave a new food culture), but someone wanting to start such a business needs to understand not only the differing regulations for each city in which they wish to sell, they have to know whom to ask within the city departments to find answers.

Some cities have specific ordinances that either allow or do not allow mobile food trucks to sell food in their city limits. Other cities don’t have an ordinance because mobile food trucks haven’t become a big enough issue to warrant one. In some cases, questions about regulations may be found in a variety of offices, from health departments to business licensing departments to financial offices.

St. Louis City

Within the limits of the city of St. Louis, food trucks have a great deal of freedom. Section Four of ordinance 68597 is entirely dedicated to mobile food establishments. The three food trucks currently in the city, Sarah’s Cake Stop, Pi on the Spot and Cha Cha Chow, fall under the second definition of a mobile food establishment: “Full-prep mobile food establishments, which are vehicles which serve unpackaged food prepared on or off the vehicle.”

Section Four requirements include that the vehicle be in good repair and sanitary condition, and is not used for any other purpose. Additional details on heating and cooling regulations, water systems, waste retention and the use of single-service and single-use articles are provided.

The ordinance also specifies “mobile food establishments shall operate from a commissary or other fixed food establishment and shall report at least daily to such location for all supplies and for all cleaning and servicing operations. The commissary or other fixed food establishment used as a base of operation for mobile food establishments shall be constructed and operated in compliance with the requirements of this chapter.”

In addition to a detailed section of ordinance 68597, the St. Louis mayor’s office has been working closely with food truck owners to ensure the trucks are able to stay in the city. Kara Bowlin, Mayor Francis Slay’s press secretary, said his staff is trying to coordinate city departments and agencies to determine standard regulations for trucks to follow.

These departments have also met with food truck owners to determine how the owners want to do mobile food business in the city. “Right now, we’re trying to firm up some of the rules and regulations for food trucks and we are working to make the City of St. Louis’ vending zones accessible and friendly to food trucks and to help food trucks and brick and mortar businesses peacefully coexist,” Bowlin said.

Maryland Heights

Since food trucks are relatively new to the St. Louis area, issues with business licensing and regulations can crop up at anytime. Such was the case recently in Maryland Heights. Pi on the Spot posted a Facebook message on Feb. 10 stating, “sorry Westport & others in Maryland Heights. The city told us we’re not welcome back there after today.”

According to Wayne Oldroyd, director of community development for Maryland Heights, this is not necessarily the case, but the city has not yet figured out a business licensing process for food trucks.

Currently, food trucks would fall under the “solicitors and peddlers” license process, which is typically used by vendors, such as ice cream trucks, for seasonal business. Oldroyd said the city is working with one of the food trucks to develop a business plan that follows current city ordinances. The business plan was brought in front of a council committee, which Oldroyd’s office to prepare a process for licensing.

Oldroyd said major issues center on where the trucks would park and the duration of their stay, as a majority of suburban streets in Maryland Heights do not have parking spots. He also said due to the large volume of employees in the city of Maryland Heights, which he said has a third rush hour during lunch, the city understands the need and demand for food trucks. “We’re working on it; we’re not disinclined or opposed to the idea of a different form of business,” he said.

The trigger of events concerning the Pi truck centered on the truck operating without a license. The truck was told that, when they finished serving, they needed to speak to city hall. Pi had been invited in by a business owner in Maryland Heights to serve during lunch. Since the city does not yet have a process for food trucks, the interim solution is a special event permit.

Ultimately, elected officials will make a final decision based on a business plan and wil be designed to ensure that the trucks do not impact other businesses or the public right of way. Oldroyd said his office is trying to get the process finished in the next 30-45 days. “Hopefully we’ll get it done for them quickly so they can get back to it and get it done the right way,” he said.

Clayton

Food truck owners Jeff Pupillo, of Sarah’s Cake Stop, and Chris Sommers, of Pi on the Spot, said Clayton is an off-limits area they would like to get into. To do so, Section 505.100 of the City of Clayton Code of Ordinances would need to be revised. That section (sale or display of merchandise – on highway, street or alley), states “it shall be unlawful for any person to place for display and sale, or to sell on any public highway, street or alley in the City any groceries, provisions, magazines, newspapers, commodities, vegetables, fruit, produce, goods, wares or merchandise.”

Clayton ordinances, like other city ordinances, are modified and updated regularly. The city finance office said typically a change comes out of a public push, a regulation change by some other authority or a new need. They have not heard any push on the food truck issue, yet.

Edwardsville

Edwardsville has a transient merchant ordinance that covers people who sell everything from furniture to food. According to James Bedell, police chief of Edwardsville, the applicant must apply for a license at the police department, and a food vendor would also need a health department certificate from Madison County for the license to be approved.

Currently, the Madison County Health Department does not permit mobile food vendors anywhere in the county. The only exception is for special events, such as a town festival, where the health department inspects individual facilities and permits their use for the event only.

“At this time we cannot issue a transient license to a mobile food vendor, as it would be unsafe without proper inspection of food being served to the public,” Bedell said.

Belleville

As long as food truck owners pass St. Clair County health department rules and regulations and apply for a certificate of compliance, the trucks can roll on in to Belleville. Patti Rompel, a license collector with the City of Belleville, said if the vendors pass the regulations and bring the certificate to her office, they then fill out a business application. The application is for serving food out of the trucks and the office charges $50 a year.

The certificate of compliance from the health department ensures food safety regulations, including maximum heating and cooling temperatures. Then, a business application allows food trucks to operate within the city limits.

http://www.stlbeacon.org/arts-life/neighborhoods/out-and-about/108126-food-trucks-driving-through-regulations