CB Council open to allowing late night food trucks in center of town

“It’s the American dream”

The Crested Butte Town Council knows that moving ahead with possibly allowing the sale of hot food during the wee hours on Elk Avenue could get them in hot water, but they are moving in that direction anyway.

 

 

The council directed staff to draft an ordinance allowing the sale of such late-night sustenance from a food truck dispensing its wares from a public parking space someplace near the fabled Barmuda Triangle in downtown Crested Butte. That would place the truck in the vicinity of Third and Elk.
The request came from the owners of the Mountain Oven Bakery, which currently leases space from the Montanya kitchen. Co-owner Chris Sullivan said the idea is to provide hot, organic food to people out and about between 10:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. “We think it will provide a needed service and increase the diversity of business in town,” Sullivan told the council at the February 21 meeting. “It is a service not currently being offered.”
The staff had given the council a memo outlining some pros and cons of the proposal. On the “pro” side, the staff noted that many businesses have signed a petition supporting the venture. The late night food sales would help increase sales tax and aren’t likely to provide many problems with the marshals or public works department.
On the “con” side, the staff said one established local business is considering offering such late-night fare. Another local is apparently considering opening a food cart (carts are already permitted in town) to provide late-night snacks in the same area. A food truck is a “big exception” to the town’s outdoor vending regulations and the staff indicated the council could expect some objections from traditional brick-and-mortar business owners who have paid fees for such things as parking and outdoor seating.
“We really don’t see it as conflict with the cart idea,” said Sullivan. “They complement each other. Both would offer a late-night alternative other than just drinking alcohol.”
He did admit that many of his potential customers could be somewhat inebriated.
Councilperson Jim Schmidt voiced several concerns. He asked if the truck would set up shop at town events like softball games or hockey events. He wanted a limit on the size of the truck dispensing the food and he wanted to make sure people were encouraged to stay on the sidewalks and not congregate in the street.
“Just getting the outdoor cart ordinance together wasn’t easy,” Schmidt said. “We need to put limits on this.”
“That seems fair,” said Sullivan. “This isn’t our exclusive business so we won’t be driving around looking for other opportunities. We wholesale to a lot of businesses in the valley. We aren’t seeking permission to set up near the ball fields, for example. We’ll be at the Farmer’s Market but this request is for late-night vending on Elk Avenue.
“The truck we have is a Ford F-150. It’s the old Roach Coach and has a bit longer bed on it,” Sullivan continued. “We’d certainly vend out of the side of the truck facing the sidewalk to try to keep people out of the street.”
Councilperson Glenn Michel said he would expect to see further details in an application dealing with issues like trash, music and lighting.
Councilperson Shaun Matusewicz said he loved the idea. “This is the American dream,” he said. “I think we need to encourage more businesses looking for unique needs and opportunities.”
“I agree. It’s a business incubator,” said councilperson David Owen.
“There will be people squawking,” councilperson John Wirsing warned the council. “Those businesspeople that paid for parking fees and spent money on brick and mortar businesses will have an issue. It may be worth a try but we’ll hear from business owners.”
“I can understand a business owner having an issue with you parking on the street and selling food from public property,” added Mayor Aaron Huckstep. “What’s your response to that?”
“It seems reasonable to charge us a fee to use the public space,” responded Sullivan. “Secondly, we currently have a business on Elk Avenue. Our rent reflects fees paid to the town. We are an existing business.”
Schmidt said the town might consider tying a food truck permit to an existing business.
Huckstep also voiced some safety concerns about drunken patrons wandering into the street. “As a guy who has been out late-night at times, Elk Avenue isn’t always a desolate place,” he said
“We can work within a safety plan,” guaranteed Sullivan. “But we’re not going to be responsible for someone coming out of the bar wasted and dancing down the street.”
“I must say the petition with a lot of business owners is impressive but if we go this route we’ll be holding a public hearing and we will listen to objections,” said Michel.
“We understand that. That’s why we solicited the petition,” said Sullivan. “We are a young business, just shy of two years. We are trying to be creative.”
The council as a whole was in support of taking the next step. They directed the town staff to craft an ordinance that put limits on the late-night vending. They wanted it to be limited to downtown and allow at least two such permits. They wanted it to be specific to late nights after 10:30 p.m. They wanted the staff to determine an adequate fee to charge for utilizing public property. And they wanted the food truck to be of a size that would fit in one parking space.
The council hopes to have some draft regulations to review at a meeting sometime next month. They also expect there to be some public comment on the idea at a public hearing. The staff will begin working on a draft immediately.

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