Food Trucks Organize to Gain Access to Clayton

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I think it might be time for that PUSH! Who wants to help get Cupcakes in Clayton?

Clayton ordinances, like other... http://fb.me/tNWa4ebyless than a minute ago via Facebook Favorite Retweet Reply

So said messages posted repeatedly to Twitter by most St. Louis food truck operators on July 1.

Jeff Pupillo, co-owner of Sarah's Cake Stop, explains that the social media barrage was the first event of a recently-formed alliance between St. Louis-area food trucks, but was rather impromptu. He and Mangia Mobile co-owner Catherine Daake were texting and decided it was time to put out the call immediately.

Erik Jacobs, owner of Wanderlust Pizza and a former brick-and-mortar restaurant owner explained: "We've come together to form an association of St. Louis food trucks in order to speak as one voice. The ordinances in place are there, but if enough Clayton residents want access to our unique offerings, then hopefully their city government will listen and work with us to provide Claytonites and those who work in Clayton really awesome food.

"They [the city of Clayton] say the law says no mobile vendors, but we'd really love to work with them to change that. I'm a Clayton resident, and I'm all for it."

Clayton Economic Developer Gary Carter pointed us to city ordinance 505.100 to explain why the city doesn't allow food trucks. It reads:

SECTION 505.100: SALE OR DISPLAY OF MERCHANDISE -- ON HIGHWAY, STREET OR ALLEY

It shall be unlawful for any person to place for display and sale or to sell on any public highway, street or alley in the City any groceries, provisions, magazines, newspapers, commodities, vegetables, fruit, produce, goods, wares or merchandise. (CC 1970 §20-29; CC 1947 §7-30.1)

SECTION 505.110: SALE OR DISPLAY OF MERCHANDISE -- ON SIDEWALK

Except when and as designated in association with community events, it shall be unlawful to place for display and sale or to sell upon any public sidewalk in the City any groceries, provisions, magazines, commodities, vegetables, fruit, produce, goods, wares or merchandise, except that it shall be lawful to sell newspapers upon any public sidewalk within the City and to place for display and storage such newspapers only in boxes as provided in Section 505.140 except further, that it shall be lawful to provide food service or customer seating areas pursuant to an outdoor dining permit. (CC 1970 §20-30; CC 1947 §7-20; Ord. No. 4821 §1, 8-27-91)

Carter said that last Friday's push hadn't registered at Clayton City Hall. He wasn't aware that the food truck alliance had commenced until his office was contacted by Gut Check.

Pupillo and the other members of the alliance are aware that their only chance of doing regular business in Clayton relies on customers letting Clayton City Hall know that they want the trucks. Until that happens, Carter sees no plans to change the laws.

"We've talked to our restaurants -- we have over 80 of them in a two and a half square mile area," says Carter regarding the lack of demand his office has seen for the trucks. "They're concerned that they've invested in brick and mortar. Rent is above average in Clayton, on top of the recession and the investment they've made."

Carter pointed out that food trucks are allowed at the Clayton Farmer's Market, where Cha Cha Chow often parks.

Pupillo holds that the food trucks might improve business in Clayton. He cites an editorial from the Webster-Kirkwood Times by Kathy Evans of Kirkwood, where Sarah's Cake Truck has been doing business for a year. Evans researched what happened in New York City nearly 80 years ago when food carts were abolished because of claims they were unfair competition to immobile businesses.

The trouble was that their [businessmen who banned food carts] efforts were successful. People liked the pushcarts; they not only were a part of the culture of the Lower East Side, but they also got people out on the street, and those people also went into stores.

"What the merchants of the East Side failed to recognize, until it was too late, was the symbiotic nature of their relationship to the peddlers," Ms. [Susan] Wasserman wrote [in an article titled, "What Will Become of Curb Pushcarts?" from the East Side Chamber News, June, 1929.] By late 1941, the merchants on Orchard Street found that "the removal of the pushcarts...had reduced gross sales...approximately 60 percent," according to article "Chamber Director Wins Stoop-Stand License Fight Against License Commissioner" from the October 1941 East Side Chamger News.

Sarah's Cake Stop, like other food trucks, have tried to work with the businesses near their parking spots. When we talked this week, the cake truck was parked on Eighth Street near 6 North Coffee Company. Knowing that the coffeehouse sells pastries, Pupillo asked the shop's management if it was OK to set up shop on the same block. They consented and were rewarded with free cupcakes for their generous spirit.

Likewise, when Sarah's vends at the Kirkwood Farmers' Market, they point customers to the nearby Kaldi's in case they want coffee with their cakes.

"We're here to make friends, not enemies," Pupillo says. "We've got to lay a good foundation, and think beyond our little trucks."

Which is where the food truck alliance comes in. "We'd rather have one voice than a whole bunch of renegades," he says.

They're going to continue to use that voice to push for change in Clayton's ordinances. Pupillo says, "We gave it a year and were going to play nice, but now..."

He switches gears to talk about a person he met at the recent Zoofari fundraiser at the St. Louis Zoo who offered to let them park in a lot he owns in Clayton.

"The ordinances don't keep us from going to Webster Groves [another municipality that bans food trucks] and opening [a brick and mortar business] next to a bakery," he says. "All these tax dollars we're sending to St. Louis city could be going to Webster Groves and Clayton. I don't think they see that."

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