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Food truck owners hold off on applying for vendor license under new policy

Ithaca – Feb. 24, 2014 – The first ever license lottery for food truck vendors in Ithaca was held last Thursday. Before the new policy was created, Ithaca had no city legislation about food truck vending on public property. This first lottery under the new street vending policy was unanimously approved by the Board of Public Works in late January.

The lotteries will be held quarterly, but vendors have the choice of renting the space they receive for a year. Assignment by lottery was chosen to give each vendor an equal chance at receiving a space. But some vendors have chosen to rent space on private property.

Blake Fall-Conroy, owner of The Icebox snow cone truck, was the sole vendor at the meeting on February 20. Fall-Conroy chose not to apply for a spot in the lottery for the April 1 through June 30 quarter.

“The way the policy is structured, you need to pay for a spot for the entire quarter, whether you are there or not,” Fall-Conroy said. “I am not planning to restart my business until sometime in May. Had I selected a spot during the lottery, I would have had to pay an administrative fee, associated business costs, and parking rent for a spot I wasn’t going to even use for the first half of the quarter.”

While crafting the new initiative the City heard from food truck vendors as well as sit-down restaurant owners. At one point the plan stated that food trucks were allowed to be within 100 feet of restaurants. After debate with restaurant owners who feared this would harm their business, the plan was changed to a 200 foot distance.

Alexis Randall, the owner of Waffle Frolic, did not share the same fears of loss of business because of her central location in the Commons.

“I wouldn’t want them parked right in front of my store, but I don’t think they will affect my business,” Randall said.

Mandy Beem-Miller, the owner of The Good Truck, said she never desired to have any kind of direct competition with any existing businesses.

“I am a strong supporter of Ithaca restaurants,” Beem-Miller said. “In each year we have been open, we have focused on choosing locations on places in town where there is a lack of good food options. I think the 200 foot ordinance is reasonable and I wouldn’t want to be any closer to another restaurant.”

Beem-Miller has been in the food truck business since 2010, but she is not applying for a vending license this year.

“This season we will be doing farmers markets, special events and catering only,” she said.

Kathrin Gehring, Executive Assistant in the Department of Public Works for the city of Ithaca, said that vendors must have their applications for the lottery in to City Hall twenty days before the quarter they want to lottery for.

“The actual lottery will be held ten days before the actual quarter. So we have ten days to review the applications,” Gehring said.

The new food truck policy places vendors that have been picked from the lottery into spots chosen by the city. The next license lottery will be for the July 1 through September 30 quarter.


Photo courtesy of The Icebox Snowballs Facebook page

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