Sequim eases rules on mobile food vendors

Hours, areas are expanded

SEQUIM — Permitted mobile food vendors are now allowed to operate more freely and longer in the City of Sequim.

Sequim City Council members unanimously approved an ordinance on July 10 to update Sequim Municipal Code (18.65) “Mobile Food Service Vendor” and loosen restrictions enacted in 2012.

The biggest changes, according to Charisse Deschenes, Sequim’s director of community development and economic development, include opening up areas vendors can operate in nonresidential zones and allowing them to be in one spot for more than four hours so long as they leave at the end of each work day.

Provisions were put in place in 2012 because some city council members and business owners felt mobile food vendors would negatively impact brick-and-mortar restaurants’ business in the city’s downtown core.

Permitted mobile vendors weren’t allowed to operate between Fifth Avenue and Brown Road. They were restricted to operating not more than four hours in one location, and they couldn’t return to that site within 48 hours.

Current city council members requested fast-tracking a change to the city code in January after Caleb Messinger, Southern Nibble’s co-owner, urged a change.

The city has only one permitted mobile food vendor so far, Ulivo Pizzeria, a business that operated under code provisions at Blue Sky Realty, prior to the code change.

Co-owner Andrea Mingiano wrote via email they’ll be at all Music in the Park events from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays in July and August in Carrie Blake Community Park.

She added the business is in the middle of a busy private catering season through October and not planning “any drastic changes in our schedule, but we’ll reconsider in winter, probably beginning of next year.”

Deschenes said via email before the new code changes go into effect, the city must publish the ordinance and update the application, process and procedures.

Deschenes said permits are already required for all mobile food vendors. If a vendor isn’t following guidelines, a person can make a complaint to the city; city personnel are “not actively out looking for violations at this time.”

As for sanitation and health guidelines, she said Clallam County covers those, and the city covers zoning issues.

Deschenes said previously that mobile food vendors seen in the city were likely operating under special event permits.

The city council public hearing was delayed until July 10 due to various factors, including a required state Department of Commerce review, and a 14-day comment period for the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Determination of Non-significance (DNS).

Two people commented, one for and one against.

Bret Wirta, Sequim Black Bear Diner owner, wrote he feels allowing mobile food vendors is unfair to brick-and-mortar restaurants due to taxes, safety requirements and other factors he must pay for and they do not.

“Food trucks will siphon off our customers during the busy season, which we use to bankroll enough cash to get us through the winter,” he wrote.

“Food trucks will pack up and leave during the slow times while we continue to pay salaries, expenses and taxes during the rest of the year — often using savings to meet these costs.

“It isn’t easy running a restaurant today, but more than that, this is a fairness issue.”

Sequim-area resident Ed Hackie wrote to the city that “people want to be fed and have a greater desire to be somewhere where there is a variety of food choices.”

He added that having no food trucks during First Friday Art Walk when other restaurants are closed “doesn’t enhance commerce for hardly anyone.”

“Food trucks would enhance, not detract, from the community,” Hackie wrote. “Look at other localities and their festivals and see the positive effects of food trucks.”

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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