Eldon re-evaluating mobile food vendors

Restaurant’s plan at issue

Sometimes, the meaning of an ordinance comes down to a word. In this case, that word is “temporary.”

The city of Eldon is reconsidering an ordinance the Board of Aldermen passed in December 2012 addressing mobile food vendors.

Ordinance No. 2012-34, which revises section 605.190 of the city’s municipal code, states, “No person(s), business or entity, shall be allowed to sell or solicit within the city limits of Eldon for the purpose of selling, food or other like product, from a vehicle, cart, stand, wagon, mobile unit, portable unit, truck, trailer or other like vehicle.”

“We had other people bringing vans in and various other temporary vehicles,” said Alderwoman Sharon Harms at the board’s Sept. 24 meeting. “One thing that we did take into consideration when we passed this was that the other restaurants in town have to pay property taxes … and they have a big investment in the building. When people come in just temporarily, this is a disadvantage to them.

“It was to protect the businesses that were already here, the permanent businesses that we have.”

The issue resurfaced recently when Andy’s Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que decided to move its business from Osage Beach back to Eldon, where it started about 10 years ago. While the restaurant operated out of a building in Osage Beach, its owners plan to serve food in Eldon’s Walmart parking lot out of a trailer — qualifying the business as mobile and temporary rather than stationary and permanent.

Restaurant owner Jennifer Neil addressed the issue with the Eldon Board of Aldermen at the Sept. 24 meeting.

“We’d like to figure out how we can get into Eldon,” Neil said. “We’d love to come back; this is home. But we’ve got to deal with the ordinance somehow.”

Neil explained that with their plan to park the trailer on land they have leased without attaching it to a vehicle, she believes Andy’s Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que should be classified as permanent.

“The biggest problem is our trailer is not a building. If you look at the definition of a building in Webster’s, a building is a relatively permanent enclosure constructed over a plot of land having a roof and usually windows and often more than one level used for a variety of activities such as living, entertainment or manufacturing. And we manufacture food,” she said. “We have four walls, windows, a roof; and we’re on a plot of land that we are going to rent full-time.”

She explained further that the business’s trailer, which houses a health-inspected kitchen, will be hooked up to water through the city and electricity through Ameren, will have a stationary gas tank, and will eventually be accompanied by skirting around the bottom and a screened-in seating area.

Discussion about the implications of the 2012 ordinance led the board to move for a re-evaluation of the wording.

“It’s still a trailer. If you take the wheels off of it, it doesn’t change it into a building. It’s just like a mobile home,” said city attorney Mark Warren. “The only way, really, the city could accommodate what you want to do is to implement an ordinance; and that’s up to the council.”

Alderman Mike Edinger proposed that the board consider whether the policy could better clarify what makes a business temporary or permanent.

“I see a difference between someone who comes in every day at a certain time and leaves, and what (Andy’s Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que is) proposing,” Edinger said. “They’re here. It’s not a permanent building, but it’s a permanent location. They’re not moving it around from day to day. So I see there might be a differentiation that we make in this to help people like that. I don’t think that’s a drain on the community and other businesses.”

The restaurant operated out of a traditional building in Osage Beach, but had they used the trailer, the procedure would have been to apply for a peddler’s license, said Bob Chatham, Osage Beach compliance officer.

Businesses in this category also must have a Camden County health inspection and, if located in another business’s parking lot, demonstrate that business’s approval. An Osage Beach peddler’s license is valid for six months and can be renewed. The initial license, as well as each renewal, has a $500 fee.

The city plans to schedule a special work session to discuss the issue, which could later be addressed at a regular board of aldermen meeting.

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