Douglas Officials May Consider Ordinance To Regulate Street Food Vendors
The street food vendor who has put up shop in front of Beery Field this summer - Odie Dogs - “has done good enough to want to come back next summer,” announced Douglas Community and Economic Development Director Ryan Kilpatrick during Monday night’s city council meeting.
The situation prompted Kilpatrick to ask council what it thought of the idea of having the city create an entire ordinance dedicated to the regulation of street food vendors just as Traverse City, MI has recently done.
He says that he has had a few merchants from the Saugatuck-Douglas business community express interest in opportunities to “augment our business, saying ‘We could have a storefront here and a mobile cart there.’”
Traverse City’s new regulations established regular hours of operation, designated specific spots in the city and reduced permit fees from $100 a day to only $725 per year.
Kilpatrick said any regulation, if indeed implemented, would be in line with the uniqueness of the Douglas community and would entail a thorough review process before its final completion.
The council provided a mixed response to his inquiry.
“I definitely support this,” said Douglas Council Member Eric Smith, adding that he thought it was a natural extension of the explosion and success of street food vendors in big cities in recent years.
“I am undecided if it’s good to expand or not,” said Douglas Mayor Jim Wiley.
Douglas City Council Member Lisa Greenwood also supported the idea, contending that in light of some in the business community expressing unease over food vendors, an ordinance would provide a “level playing field.”
This past May, the council granted Odie Dogs’ owner Eric Chaitin a one-year permit to park his mobile food cart in two parking spaces in front of Beery Field. The city charged him $1,000 ($500 per parking space) to do so.
Just as some Traverse City eateries did, some Douglas downtown merchants complained Odie Dogs posed an unfair competitive advantage because it’s exempt from paying property taxes as is the case for brick-and-mortar eateries and it could simply pack up and leave during the off -season.
Others said the business set a bad precedent and described the business as “tacky” and inconsistent with the character of the town.
At the time of the Odie Dogs’ approval, Kilpatrick said, “The intent here is to create an opportunity to incubate a business and encourage a brick-and-mortar business within the next three years.”