By Melanie Williamson
The first item on the agenda for the Legislative Committee was the proposed food truck ordinance. Under the leadership of Council-at-Large Monica Stark, Stark and councilman John Gabriel prepared a draft of possible legislation based on the items that have already been discussed.
Gabriel introduced the draft stating that to start, they provided the legal department with the list of talking points they wanted to see addressed in the legislation and the legal department prepared the draft. Gabriel reiterated several times that this was just the rough draft because they needed to start somewhere, but he was open to discussing any aspect of the legislation as others saw fit.
The legislation is focused on maintaining safety and fairness for the established restaurants in Vermilion. This included items such as ensuring that all food trucks undergo a fire safety inspection, have cleared a health inspection, and are fully insured. Gabriel shared there are also items such as registering the food truck with the city and ensuring they are not clocking hydrants or fire lanes. If the food truck is operating on public land, there will be limits to how often they will be allowed to set up. If the food truck is parked on private property, they will be limited to not allowing public sale. Simply put, this means that food cannot be sold to individuals from the food truck. However, a business or party organizer can pay to have food served from a food truck for an event.
There are also items in the draft to grandfather in food trucks that have already operated in Vermilion, which Gabriel stated will cover the vendors that regularly participate in city festivals or at school events.
Councilman Steve Holovacs stated that he knows from his experience working with the Lion’s Club food truck that the health department does not know when individual food trucks are setting up at events, so it will be important that the city notify the Erie County Health Department when a food truck is planning to set up to ensure they are inspected.
Councilwoman Barb Brady requested that the language in the legislation be changed to clarify that the new law would not apply to trucks delivering prepared food such as that of a catering company. Gabriel stated that the law would not apply to food delivery trucks, but also said that they can look at the wording to see if it could be made more apparent.
Another item in the legislation that was questioned was regarding food truck employees and background checks. Under 872.03 “Application” item 1 states that along with the application, the company will be required to provide a list of every employee that will work on the food truck. Further, item 11 states that the applicant will conduct a criminal background check of all employees. Brady asked if these items are required of restaurant owners, which council president Steve Herron responded that they are not. Gabriel stated that some of the items in the legislation were recommended by the legal department, but reiterated that what was being presented was an initial draft and any part of it can be changed.
Joe Jesko addressed council on behalf of himself and Jeremy Crawford, the owners of The Pavilion Food Truck. Jesko stated that they have put their heart and soul into their business, and they want to continue to grow their business in Vermilion possibly opening a restaurant in the future. He stated he understands the concern of food trucks coming into Vermilion and stealing business away from local businesses. However, he asserted that he has an apartment in Vermilion and is looking to buy a house, and Crawford has been a resident of Vermilion and worked in town for 13 years demonstrating that they see themselves as a local business too. He closed by stating that they hope they will be able to continue their business in Vermilion.
Before closing the discussion, councilman Gabriel stated again that he was willing to discuss striking anything in the current draft. The legislation was added to the agenda for the Monday, October 1, city council meeting for a first reading and discussion. For a full copy of the proposed legislation, CLICK HERE.