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CITY BROKE ITS OWN LAW

Food Truck Mania got free pass for illegal monthly event

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CITY BROKE ITS OWN LAW

The City of Manteca Food Truck Mania event last year at Woodward Park was illegal based on the city’s own ordinances.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/


POSTED October 2, 2017 1:36 a.m.

The popular city sponsored monthly Food Truck Mania events conducted in 2016 at Woodward Park weren’t legal under Manteca municipal law.

Nor were the vending portions of Fourth of July events hosted by the city at the municipally-owned Big League Dreams sports complex

The Manteca Municipal Code section governing the issuance of business licenses clearly states, “street fairs/special events shall only be a permitted use in those areas zoned commercial or industrial.”

Several brick and mortar business owners Manteca mandates paying annual business license fees ranging from $15 to $1,188  solely for the purpose of generating money for the city complained at the time the food truck event was launched that the city wasn’t playing by its own rules. The complaints were dismissed at the time.

On Tuesday, the council is being asked to change the wording of the ordinance to include parks. The staff report from Parks & Recreation Director Kevin Fant said the change will allow special events and fairs to take place at municipal parks as well as allow vendors to participate. 

What the ordinance change doesn’t address — and what was the biggest gripe at the time — was whether the food vendors paid the required $188 annual fee Manteca requires food trucks to conduct business within the city limits.  There is a specific provision in the business license ordinance addressing actual food trucks.  The ordinance calls for such vendors at street fairs to pay a $5 fee for each event they sell items at.  Given some food trucks were in Manteca on four separate occasions, it was questioned at the time whether the city was giving preferential treatment to out-of-town food trucks as opposed to ones legally licensed to operate in Manteca.

Had the city even collected the $5 fee per vendor for food trucks, they would have paid only $20 compared to a local food truck that pays $188 a year.

And while the argument might be made it was for only four days, due to the event being organized by the city and advertised on its social media platforms, it drew large crowds — more than 5,000 at the first event — the vendors in one day with the city’s help did as much business as some food trucks do in one to two weeks. And local food trucks were squeezed out as they had to belong to a Sacramento-based group to participate.

One Manteca food truck vendor at the time complained to the Bulletin the city did not allow food trucks to set up shop at city parks.

Typically street fair events involve organizers asking for a waiver or to pay one inclusive fee for all vendors. In such cases, though, the city requires that the vendors have required state sales tax permits. The existing ordinance language allows for fee waivers for vendors at the council’s discretion.

That information is essential for the collection of sales tax including one cent for the city’s share, half cent for public safety staffing, and half cent for Measure K transportation projects.

The fact the food trucks aren’t housed or operated from Manteca doesn’t exempt them from license fees. The ordinance doesn’t categorically exempt food trucks just because they are part of a street fair. 

The ordinance also requires every “mobile grocery store” operating within Manteca to pay $750 a year. Any vehicle that is used to sell, to deliver or offers to sell fruits and vegetables and similar commodities to city residents must pay a $188 annual fee.

Every vehicle used by a business based outside of the city that served a resident or business within Manteca must pay $63 per year per vehicle. Those businesses doing the same that are located in Manteca must pay an annual $45 fee per vehicle.

The food truck event was held once a month for several months before the organizers out of Sacramento ceased staffing them.

 

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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