For decades taco trucks and other types of food trucks have not been allowed in the city of Ceres. On Monday the Ceres City Council signaled its interest in allowing mobile food vendors on a limited trial basis.
Mobile food vendors have not been permitted in Ceres, Hughson and Riverbank but Modesto allows them by right. The cities of Newman, Oakdale and Patterson allow them by conditional use permits. The county and the cities of Waterford and Turlock allow them by administrative approval. Community Development Director Tom Westbrook said he doesn’t recommend allowing food trucks by right like Modesto but suggested three tiers.
Ultimately the council said it will consider mobile food vendors through a conditional use permit (CUP) and temporary use permit (TUP) basis. A TUP would be ideal for special events and likely would not exceed 15 days per year. He suggested a place like River Oaks Golf & Events Center might want to take advantage of a TUP.
He also said existing Ceres saloons like the Rusty Nail or tap rooms like Blaker Brewing in an industrial zone may wish to seek a CUP for mobile food operators for up to 280 days per year. The CUP would be reviewed annually to go over any problems that have arisen or modify the conditions if necessary. Such an agreement could be cancelled if problems arise.
The city charges around $250 for a TUP and about $1,000 to process a CUP.
Councilwoman Linda Ryno did not like the idea of permits being issued at the staff level.
The council has yet to decide on the framework of the regulations but Westbrook suggested that vendors be required to have access to restroom facilities within 200 feet if they operate for four or more hours, and that trucks have at least 1,000 feet between them. Westbrook also implored the council to not allow tables and chairs around a mobile truck.
“So if somebody came up, they’d order their food and would take it to go,” said Westbrook. “There wouldn’t be opportunities to sit.”
He suggested a special window sticker that would enable authorities to tell at a glance if the truck is permitted to operate in Ceres.
Ryno expressed some concern over the city’s ability to enforce regulation.
Under the proposed recommendation, food trucks would be allowed to set up at commercial businesses like Home Depot or Kmart on Hatch Road.
Ryno said she doesn’t want to see “a line-up of mobile food vendors” along stretches of commercial areas such as Hatch and Mitchell Road. Westbrook said the council has the option of setting a higher distance between vendors and said some commercial shopping center owners may not allow them at all.
Councilman Ken Lane expressed concern that allowing food trucks will encourage pedestrian food cart vendors to set up shop and he wants a series of fines in place.
Councilman Bret Durossette feels vendors should primarily be allowed in industrial areas and a “small few” in commercial areas.
Trucks will not be allowed to operate in city parks or on streets but only in commercial or industrial zones.
“I think we should have a trial period,” said Mayor Chris Vierra. “We could reevaluate in six months.”
Any such food vendor would have to receive a license from the county Health Department.
City Manager Toby Wells explained that the quest to allow mobile food vendors is about giving businesses such as Rusty Nail or Blaker Brewing which don’t have full kitchens “an opportunity for success and growth and not competition of taking away.”
Juan Romo, president of the Ceres Chamber, said his group supports food vendors for special events “to bring in more people, more revenue and more tax dollars.”
Nelson Ramirez, co-owner of the Rusty Nail, said his lounge would benefit because “unfortunately right now downtown doesn’t have much of an option when it comes to food, especially after 9 o’clock.
“I fall into that category where my customers come in, they’re hungry and they have to go out somewhere else,” said Ramirez.