St. Louis, MO: Local Government Strikes Down Yet Another Tasty Innovation

Cha Cha Chow was one of three food trucks parked at Euclid and Forest Park avenues June 29. (Emily M. Rasinski/Post-Dispatch)


Cha Cha Chow was one of three food trucks parked at Euclid and Forest Park avenues June 29. (Emily M. Rasinski/Post-Dispatch)

Over the last year, food trucks have been popping up in St. Louis.

This week, city officials began running them off.

A health inspector confronted The Sweet Divine cupcake truck on Tuesday, and a police officer issued a warning to the Cha Cha Chow truck on Wednesday at Euclid Avenue and Forest Park Parkway, in front of the Center for Advanced Medicine.

Cha Cha Chow, a visitor at that site for months, was told it was violating an ordinance that prohibits vending on public streets in that part of the city. The ordinance is not new, but has become more of a priority, a police officer said.

Jenna Siebert, an owner of Sweet Divine, said a health department inspector warned her if she didn’t leave the BJC campus, the license collector’s office would fine her for vending violations. The inspector also said Siebert could sell only pre-packaged items. Siebert said that although she has a city business license, she left to avoid further trouble with the city.

Rachel Kitchen of Sarah's Cake Stop hands a customer an order June 29 at Euclid and Forest Park avenues. "We sell out every time we park here — usually before 2 o'clock," she says. (Emily M. Rasinski/Post-Dispatch)

Kara Bowlin, a spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay, said food trucks present a unique enforcement issue.

“The area in question is indeed a ‘no-vending’ zone,” Bowlin said, adding that the vending ordinance was written several years ago to deal with street cart vendors and does not specifically address the newer food trucks.

“That’s why downtown is a popular spot” for the trucks, “because it’s a vending zone,” Bowlin said.

Pam Walker, city health director, said police had asked her department to check the trucks parked at BJC.

Bowlin said the mayor’s office generally supports food trucks in St. Louis, but emphasized they are technically illegal in many areas.

Both Bowlin and Walker said the city’s informal policy on food trucks is that they should park where people appreciate their presence.

One of those places is the Barnes-Jewish Hospital campus. Several employees expressed concern Wednesday that the city seems to be running off the food trucks.

“It certainly isn’t us complaining,” said Katy Thomas, a nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “We love the trucks. In fact, we’d like to see more truck activity on Mondays.”

She added: “But it’s obvious someone has complained.”

The identity of the dissatisfied parties is a mystery.

Alderman Joseph Roddy, D-17th Ward, who represents the area, could not be reached for comment.

Barnes-Jewish Hospital is not complaining about the food trucks, a spokesman said. Its employees are frequent patrons of the trucks that regularly park at BJC, which also include Pi on the Spot, Mangia Mobile, Sarah’s Cakestop and Falafelwich.

The spokesman, Jason Merrill, said the hospital has remained supportive, even after initial worries that the trucks might disrupt traffic.

“We asked the city if it was OK for them to park there, but it wasn’t a complaint,” Merrill said. “And that’s the last we heard. Our folks said we didn’t do it. Our security did not ask them to leave.”