|Posted by Anne Siren on October 12, 2012 at 3:25 PM|
Wilton Manors – When Nick Berry looks at a vending cart he sees an unfair advantage.
So Berry, co-owner of Shawn and Nick’s Courtyard Café and Gelato Station, both on Wilton Drive, has asked city commissioners to do something about them. “It’s not a level playing field,” said Berry, pointing out that brick and mortar business owners have to invest tens of thousands in rent and other expenses while people with carts can park on the sidewalk and still make money with a much smaller investment.
“[They] have no equity in our city,” said Berry, who added that he and his business partner donate a lot to local community organizations. He estimated that he spent $100,000 last year to stay in business on Wilton Drive.
Commissioners agreed with Berry.
“It’s a legitimate concern,” said Commissioner Ted Galatis. “They don’t have a vested interest in our city,” said Commissioner Julie Carson.
Unfortunately for Berry and other business owners who are unhappy with the carts, they are here to stay in one form or another.
“You can’t prohibit it but you can regulate it,” said City Attorney Kerry Ezrol.
In 2003, carts were included as an approved use in what is now known as the Arts and Entertainment Special Overlay District. And in October of 2011, commissioners again gave approval to the carts when the overlay district was renamed. The district, which includes Wilton Drive and Dixie Highway, allows vending carts as well as outdoor dining, art galleries, parking garages, theatres, pet stores and other uses.
In the materials provided to commissioners in October, vending carts appear at the very end of the list of allowed businesses.
“The devil’s in the details, ladies and gentlemen,” said Galatis.
Commissioners, after realizing they had approved the carts, voted 4-0 on Tuesday to have city staff revise regulations. Mayor Gary Resnick was absent.
Currently, the city allows carts in the public right of way as long as they don’t block pedestrian or vehicular traffic, are a maximum of five feet by ten feet and signage associated with them is limited to six square feet. Cart vendors must also obtain a business tax receipt and the city has approval over where carts are located.
“I’m not comfortable having them in the right of way,” said Carson.
The new regulations commissioners directed staff to craft come from an option recommended by the city’s planning and zoning board. Last year, planning and zoning recommended the carts be allowed but only on private property and only if they are tied to a brick and mortar storefront that already has a business license with the city.
According to Heidi Shafran, Community Development Services Department director, so far only one person has asked to set-up a cart, Glenn Phillips.
Phillips, a chef who plans to open a hot dog cart, Dogs Gone Wild, at USA Auto on North Dixie Highway across from Publix, says he’s tried to put a cart in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and other cities but has been unsuccessful – until now.
“It’s been a battle. I’ve been bounced around every little city. I wish they would allow it more,” said Phillips, who added that many cities seem to make starting a vending cart complicated on purpose. “It’s something that needs to be changed. I’m going to be giving someone a job. Isn’t that what we’re trying to do in this country?”
Now that he has been approved by Wilton Manors, Phillips said he hopes to be open in a week or two and offer something really special and “capture taste buds.”
“Street vendors don’t take food away,” he said. “Some people want a fancy dinner and some people just want a hot dog.”