As the culture of street food grows, some St. Charles council members think the city should reconsider policy.
ST. CHARLES, MO – Donald Abbey has a very large family and somehow he’s the one who always ends up getting stuck cooking. “It’s always been a passion and a hobby of mine since I was a little kid,” he said.
Now Abbey’s hobby has become his career. He serves barbecue out of a trailer near Discount Smoke Shop on Veterans Memorial Parkway. When Abbey first opened his business, he didn’t know his business was located in the city of St. Charles. Abbey was operating with a St. Charles County license for six weeks until he was informed that the city had recently annexed that property.
He said he was not confident he would receive a permit because the city has turned down many street food vendors.
Abbey said while getting the St. Charles County permit was “a breeze,” the permit for vending in St. Charles City was not as easy. “It was a long process, tedious, but we got it done,” Abbey said.
While St. Charles County only requires that the business owner sign a commissary agreement and pass inspections, the permit must pass through both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the city council to be approved in St. Charles.
Abbey now pays an extra 1 percent tourist tax because he operates near the Embassy Suites and the St. Charles Convention Center. Abbey said if he were in the county, just up the street or across the road from where his trailer sits, he wouldn’t have to pay the tax.
“If I would have been over there, I wouldn’t have it. But I’m here,” Abbey said.
Municipalities in St. Charles County have very different rules and regulations when it comes to food trucks.
St. Peters, for example, has never granted a permit for a food truck who wasn’t catering an event. Ann Burgdorf with the St. Peters business license office said street food vendors are sometimes discouraged by St. Peter’s strict regulations.
“We do get inquiries and once we make them aware, they are usually a catering truck or they don’t apply with us,” Burgdorf said.
The city of O’Fallon does not allow food trucks at all.
Perhaps the easiest place to get a license is in St. Louis City.
Jeff Pupillo is co-owner of the mobile cupcake van, Sarah’s Cake Stop, and a member of the St. Louis Food Trucks Association. Pupillo said the city has gone from four food trucks to 19 within the past few months.
This March, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay worked with food trucks and restaurants to help craft ordinances that were made to benefit to both parties.
“It’s been the Mayor’s office that realized the food trucks can create an energy downtown,” Pupillo said.
Pupillo said the food truck culture is growing in the Midwest, and members of the St. Louis Food Truck Association have seen a demand for street food in St. Charles.
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