St. Charles, MO: Some Council Members Don’t Want More Street Food Vendors

From left, Steve Darlin and Kyle Cast wait for their food in the hot weather at Steve O's BBQ & More. The St. Charles City Council approved a permit for the barbecue trailer in July 2009. The council failed to approve a similar permit for an Indian food truck on Tuesday. Credit Rebecca Thiele

By Rebecca Thiele | Patch.com

Gaurang Bhavsar hoped to set up a temporary concession stand in the parking lot of West Clay Liquor from which he planned to sell Indian food. Credit Kalen Ponche

Before the city council meeting Tuesday, Gaurang Bhavsar said he was confident he would be granted a permit to sell Indian food out of a concession stand in the parking lot of West Clay Package Liquor.

Both the owner of the liquor store and the St. Charles City Planning and Zoning Commission gave Bhavsar approval to open the stand. All Bhavsar had to do was convince the City Council to give him a conditional use permit for it. Bhavsar said he wasn’t worried.

“As long as you follow the city’s conditions, they won’t give you a hard time,” said Bhavsar.

Bhavsar said he was surprised when the city council voted down a conditional use permit for the stand.

“I was so shocked, I thought everything was fine,” said Bhavsar.

During the city council meeting, city council members agreed Bhavsar may only be allowed the permit until December 2011 if the measure was approved. Despite this change, the motion failed 2-5. Six votes were needed for the motion to pass.

Council members Mike Klinghammer, Ward 8, Mary Ann Ohms, Ward 1, Tom Besselman, Ward 2, Ron Stivison, Ward 9, and Jerry Reese, Ward 6, voted for the permit, while council members Bob Kneemiller, Ward, 4 and Dave Beckering, Ward 7, voted against the permit. Council members Michael Weller, Ward 5, Laurie Feldman, Ward 3, and Bridget Ohmes, Ward 10, were absent from the meeting.

Some council members said temporary food vendors do not have to put as much of an investment into the city as restaurant owners do.

“It’s unfair competition with the other restaurants,” said Councilman Bob Kneemiller, Ward 4. “They don’t have to pay property taxes. They don’t get inspected by the health department. They don’t have to pay taxes on utilities.”

“We don’t want to get out of balance by having too many. There is a time and a place for them,” said Councilman Mike Klinghammer, Ward 8. “Flowers stands are in the spring, Christmas tree lots are in the winter, but businesses like this (Indian food stand) aren’t appropriate because they are in competition with businesses that have invested more into the city.”

In April, a request for conditional use permit for an outdoor vending cart that would sell hotdogs and soda on Main Street in St. Charles failed to get any support from the city council after several business owners in the area said the stands would take customers from their restaurants.

Steve Pundmann owns a barbecue trailer called Steve O’s BBQ & More which he sets up in the parking lot of the Pundmann Ford off of Duchesne Road. The city council approved the permit for his trailer in July 2009.

Pundmann said he may not have to rent a space for a restaurant, but he is still taking a risk.

“I’ve got $80,000 invested in this trailer,” he said. “Some hot dog carts can get away with spending only $15,000, but it’s still an investment.”

From left, Steve Darlin and Kyle Cast wait for their food in the hot weather at Steve O's BBQ & More. The St. Charles City Council approved a permit for the barbecue trailer in July 2009. The council failed to approve a similar permit for an Indian food truck on Tuesday. Credit Rebecca Thiele

Bhavsar said he was hoping to avoid the cost of a failing restaurant by opening up the less expensive concession stand. He said the city should recognize that there is a market for temporary food vendors in the area.

“There is a people who can’t afford expensive food,” said Bhavsar. “And there is a culture of Indian food that is supposed to be out here.”

Bhavsar said he intends to further appeal to the St. Charles City Council for a temporary permit for the Indian food stand. The city has granted five permits to street food vendors in the last year.

http://stcharles.patch.com/articles/some-council-members-discourage-more-street-food-vendors#photo-6491287