The Ceres City Council took action on Monday to allow mobile food vendors in Ceres on a very limited basis for a six-month trial period.
Tom Westbrook, director of Community Development for the city of Ceres, said food trucks will only be allowed in commercial or industrial areas to supplement existing businesses, notably bars, tap rooms or River Oaks Golf Course & Event Center.
“It’s not intended to be in any industrial location throughout the city,” said Westbrook. “It’s going to be pretty narrow in its scope – there’s probably a half a dozen businesses that I would assume citywide that could fit the bill.”
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 approved the start of the trial period. City Manager Toby Wells said the regulations were based on prior council concerns about proliferation to “crack the door very, very slightly, limited to six months to see how it works.”
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.
The city will allow vendors to operate through an administrative use permit (AUP) or temporary use permit (TUP) basis. A TUP would be ideal for special events and likely would not exceed five days within the six-month window. The administrative permit would be for up to 280 days per year.
He also said existing Ceres saloons like the Rusty Nail and Run Around Sue’s in commercial zones and tap rooms like Blaker Brewing in an industrial zone may wish to seek an administrative permit.
Westbrook said that vendors will be required to have access to restroom and washing facilities within 200 feet if they operate for four or more hours, and that trucks have at least 1,000 feet between them. They also must have access to waste dumpsters as well as have garbage cans nearby.
“We don’t really want people congregating at the exterior of these things so we’re not allowing them to have tables and chairs or canopies to set that up,” said Westbrook. “You go to the mobile food vehicle, you take it back into the business or you just take it home.”
Councilman Bret Durossette wondered if the city was being too restrictive concerning no tables and chairs.
“I’m not saying that we allow them to look like Crows Landing (Road) but, I mean, if we want this to be somewhat successful, I think we need to give them a little bit of tools,” said Durossette.
Councilwoman Linda Ryno said the city “can start with baby steps too.” She asked if Durossette wants to see picnic tables and chairs set up outside of Moreno’s on Mitchell Road. Durossette then backed away from his point.
Vendors would not be allowed to operate after midnight and not before 7 a.m. They will not be able to set up signs or pennants.
The city is proposing a special window sticker or magnet that would enable authorities to tell at a glance if the truck is permitted to operate in Ceres. Any such food vendor would have to receive a license from the county Health Department.
Under the proposed recommendation, food trucks would be allowed to set up at commercial businesses like Home Depot or Kmart on Hatch Road.
Trucks will not be allowed to operate in city parks or on streets but only in commercial or industrial zones.
In August Nelson Ramirez, co-owner of the Rusty Nail, said his lounge would benefit because downtown doesn’t offer food after 9 p.m.
“I fall into that category where my customers come in, they’re hungry and they have to go out somewhere else,” Ramirez told the council in August.
In answer to a question from Vice Mayor Mike Kline, Westbrook noted that businesses like UPS or Grainger would not qualify for a mobile food vendor.
“The administrative use permit is specifically for establishments to supplement their business,” said Westbrook. “UPS doesn’t sell food or do anything like that, nor does Grainger.”
The city has and continues to allow “paddy wagon” type of vendors in industrial areas which offer pre-packaged sandwiches and beverages but only for five or 10 minutes.