By Nicole Friedman | Oregon Live- The Oregonian
Potential changes to Beaverton’s food cart regulations could rev up an industry that cart owners and advocates say has struggled to take hold due to city restrictions.
Beaverton currently allows food carts to stay in one spot for seven hours, a limit that many say is restrictive.
But the city’s planning commission expressed interest June 26 in creating food cart pods, or sites where multiple food carts could park full time.
The city has about 50 sites where food cart pods could be created, Beaverton Economic Development Manager Alma Flores told the planning commission.
Food cart pods could open Beaverton’s doors to larger trucks, stationary trailers and the wide variety of food-cart cuisine seen in neighboring Portland.
Beaverton’s current food carts are mostly smaller taco trucks that can easily move from one spot to another.
Demand for food cart pods already exists in Beaverton, said Brett Burmeister, managing editor of the Food Carts Portland blog.
“I get requests once a week, once every two weeks: ‘Hey, why don’t we have food carts in Beaverton?'” Burmeister said.
Many of his blog’s Facebook fans are from the Beaverton area. “Beaverton wants food trucks,” he said.
Following the rules
La Morenita Ricos Tacos adheres to Beaverton’s regulations by setting up at the corner of Southwest Allen Boulevard and Southwest Lombard Avenue from around 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., then moving down the street and reopening from around 6 to 10 p.m., said Kandy Lopez, 19, whose father, Ismael Lopez, 52, owns the cart.
“It’s not that much work — it’s just a hassle,” Kandy Lopez said.
Food cart operators are required to obtain Beaverton business licenses, which cost $50 a year for businesses with up to four employees, and temporary mobile sales permits,which cost $191 a year. The carts need plan approval and licenses from Washington County, each of which can cost several hundred dollars, and many carts must get licenses for off-site kitchens.
Beaverton’s code compliance department usually contacts violators only after receiving a complaint, said George Fetzer, code compliance manager. Food carts comprise a “really small volume” of the department’s caseload, he said.
The department has worked on 14 code violation cases involving food carts since January 2010 and issued two citations, according to the city.
Washington County’s regulations are comparable to those in nearby counties, said Jon Kawaguchi, environmental health program supervisor for the county.
Ninety-four mobile food units are currently licensed in Washington County.
Carts that are licensed in a different county can also sell food in Washington County.
For example, Bill Blackford, 52, moved his food cart Bang Bangs BBQ from Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood to the parking lot of Beaverton’s Uptown Market on Southwest Scholls Ferry Road in November.
For two months, Blackford sold barbecue lunches and dinners while operating under his Multnomah County license. He kept his cart open for nine or 10 hours a day and left it on the site overnight.
Business was great, Blackford said, but when the time came to renew his license in January, he studied Beaverton’s requirements and found them too restrictive.
Faced with the choice of moving his cart off-site every day or building a permanent foundation connected to the city’s sewer system, Blackford opted to relocate to Southeast Portland.
Customers in Southeast Portland were unfamiliar with Blackford’s food and less willing to pay his prices, and he ended up selling his cart. He is now repairing and reselling recreational vehicles, he said.
“If we would have stayed in Beaverton, I would still be in business and probably doing quite well,” Blackford said. “I’m not in the business anymore, and I, in a way, blame Beaverton.”
Food cart pods could make Beaverton more of a dining destination, said Brett Tuft, 40, of Aloha, who owns a food cart called Maiale di Volo Wood Fired Catering. “Beaverton is kind of known as the land of chain restaurants,” he said.
Tuft’s cart sells pizzas in Uptown Market’s parking lot four days a week. Tuft started the cart four months ago in hopes of launching a catering business, he said.
A study conducted in Portland in 2008 concluded that about half of food cart operators plan to move their businesses into storefront locations in the future. The study also concluded that food cart pods do not inhibit development.
Food carts are “certainly not a threat to existing businesses,” said Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle, adding that food cart pods are overdue in his city. “I think it would add a dynamic to this city that we need.”
Uptown Market, a specialty beer store, struggles to find carts for its parking lot that are willing to abide by Beaverton’s seven-hour rule, said general manager Herb Apon, 42.
“Most of the food carts have had a little bit of trouble dealing with the city of Beaverton,” Apon said.
Uptown Market is on Beaverton’s eastern border, near Portland. Under Portland’s less restrictive food cart regulations, “my life would be a lot easier,” Apon said.