Council approval sends food trucks to city streets

The new regulations for mobile food service designate new areas of operation.

With unanimous decisions on consecutive bills, the Columbia City Council voted to amend the city code to increase the hours of alcohol service at sidewalk cafes and to increase the designated areas of service for food trucks.

Under prior code, sidewalk cafes were only allowed to serve alcoholic beverages between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., and all alcohol had to be consumed before 11:00 p.m. Following the amended regulations, sidewalk cafes will be allowed to serve alcohol until midnight, and will not require patrons to order food as previously dictated, according to a document submitted to council.

Food trucks, which were previously confined to operating within private parking lots with the consent of the owner, or with special event permits from the city, will now occupy downtown streets and parking spaces. Mobile food vendors will pay for the parking spaces taken up by their establishments with meter bags purchased through the city.

The two bills, presented in conjunction, have the potential to spark economic growth in the restaurant sector as other areas experience a shift to online purchases, explained Community Improvement District Executive Director Carrie Gartner.

“The one thing thing that you can’t do online is go out to dinner,” Gartner said. “It will create a great sidewalk culture.”

Though all City Council members supported the two bills, there was a question as to whether or not the ordinance regarding food trucks could be amended to allow vendors to operate on public streets and parking spaces on MU’s campus. Council considered an amendment to allow vendors on other parts of campus, but decided to negotiate with MU before dictating where the trucks could park.

Students want food trucks on campus, said food truck owner and chef Bryan Maness, who started the Ozark Mountain Biscuit Company food truck in Columbia.

“I feel like this is perfect for a high consumer demand,” Maness said. “We get weekly calls but can’t be on campus.”

While MU has not taken a position on the issue, council members remained open to re-evaluating the mobile food vending regulations after discussions with university officials.

“There certainly is a great deal of interest in getting this done, but I think it would be prudent to move ahead and consider that comeback and propose that extension,” said Third Ward Council Member Karl Skala.

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