St. CLoud, FL: BarberQ set to open at Rife’s

St. Cloud entrepreneur Vinny Barber wants to sell barbecue to the hungry masses in St. Cloud. After a warm customer reception to his food this summer, the City Council has given him the cold shoulder recently, refusing to issue the necessary permits to sell food from his mobile kitchen.

News-Gazette Photo/Andrew Sullivan Vinny Barber peers out from inside of his mobile kitchen, which currently is relegated to the back of his St. Cloud driveway. Barber has been trying to clarify city code that has prevented him from selling barbecue from his state-certified kitchen in St. Cloud.

By Fallan Patterson
Staff Writer | AroundOsceola.com

Entrepreneurs in St. Cloud may soon find it easier to open new businesses in the city if the new City Council implements changes to the city code to work with potential businesses owners.

Council members already approved within their first two meetings to pass a new and more affordable impact fee system based on the water and sewer meters on the building. The council also will be looking at possible changes to the city code for zoning and permit fees to make opening a business easier at a Jan. 20 workshop.

Vinny Barber and his family have dreamed of opening a barbecue takeout and catering business using their secret sauce recipe in St. Cloud since the construction boom diminished in 2008. They spent $15,000 remodeling a portable trailer into a mobile kitchen, which Barber takes to fairs and barbecue competitions, and opened BarberQ.

BarberQ sauce is sold at Rife’s Market in St. Cloud. Barber took out a permit with the city to host a “Customer Appreciate Day” Labor Day weekend, selling two-for-one barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, using meat purchased from Rife’s, in the supermarket’s parking lot. Because of the event’s success, Barber took out additional permits to expand the event into a month-long endeavor but was only allowed to complete a few weeks. The city revoked his permit due to parking lot space constraints.

Since July, Barber has been working with the city on a site plan to open a retail space in the Rife’s Market plaza in 13th Street where he would sell takeout. The mobile kitchen would be used in lieu of a traditional in-house cooking facility. City officials said at the Nov. 18 City Council meeting that the plaza has inadequate parking because the trailer, which is 33-by-9 feet, would take up too much space.

St. Cloud entrepreneur Vinny Barber wants to sell barbecue to the hungry masses in St. Cloud. After a warm customer reception to his food this summer, the City Council has given him the cold shoulder recently, refusing to issue the necessary permits to sell food from his mobile kitchen.

“All I’m trying to do is use a vehicle in support of my business…not unlike pizza delivery trucks or furniture stores,” Barber said at the meeting. “I’m seventh generation Osceola County (resident) and the last thing I want to see is 13th Street looking like a carnival.”

Kenny Rife, whose family has owned Rife’s Market since 1962, said the $1,000 monthly payment on the space Barber wants to lease would help keep his local grocery store open.

“Everyday you lose money is money you never make up,” he said. “I bet there’s not one business on this strip (that’s not) one month away from shutting down.”

Barber recently met with city officials to work out a plan for his proposed business. City Manager Tom Hurt said Thursday that officials visited the plaza and designed a plan that both Rife and Barber have to agree with. Once the deal is put through, Barber will be issued a temporary permit to set up and serve takeout food out of the trailer in the Rife’s parking lot.

The changes that will be discussed and initiated from the Jan. 20 workshop will determine the next steps for the retail space inside the plaza. For now, Barber is happy with the outcome.

“I don’t want them to change the code allowing mobile vending. I don’t want to open a can of worms,” he said. “I’m just glad the city manager took the bull by the horns. Hopefully, after the workshop, (the takeout establishment) will be cemented.”

BarberQ’s first day back in the Rife’s parking lot is planned for New Year’s Eve.

“You’ll end the year and start the year with us,” Barber said.

As for the City Council, the members just want time to decide where changes, if any, need to be implemented and create ways to make small businesses open and thrive in St. Cloud.

“The problem is we have to take into concern all the (surrounding) residents and businesses,” Mayor Rebecca Borders said. “We want to help businesses; give us the chance to have the workshop.”

Council member Jarom Fertic wants to see quicker, more positive results for entrepreneurs hoping to start a business in town.

“It doesn’t make sense we can’t work with somebody. There has be a happy medium instead of no,” he said. “(The workshop) will open the gate to where this council will go this year.”

Fertic outlined suggestions for aiding new business growth in the city: giving the staff the ability to make “executive decisions” to interpret the codes; lower fees for zone changes; allowing for additional signs to promote businesses off the main corridors; changes to make the code broader and in ways the city still olds control; and creating a packet outlining procedures for opening a business within the city.

“Maybe we can fill the empty store fronts. I’d rather see the stores filled than emptiness,” Fertic said. “Small businesses are what’s going to make St. Cloud a good place to live.”

The Jan. 20 workshop is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. in the St. Cloud City Council Chambers located in City Hall, 1300 9th St. and is open to the public.