New requirements and lengthy approval process briefly threatened to shut many of the businesses

BALTIMORE, MD – Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake came to the rescue of Baltimore’s fledgling food truck scene Wednesday after a city official targeted a few of the mobile businesses because he said they lacked proper permits.

Alvin O. Gillard — chairman of the city’s street vendors board — informed two trucks that they now must have a street vendors license, commonly used by small sidewalk carts. Although the permit costs only $25, Gillard told the truck operators that they would have to wait until June to have them approved. The requirement would have affected most of the city’s food truck fleet, and the approval process could have put several out of business, the owners said.

But by midafternoon, Rawlings-Blake tweeted her support for the trucks and asked city agencies to work with the businesses to ensure that they have the proper permits. In the meantime, the food trucks will be able to operate as usual, said Ryan O’Doherty, a spokesman for the mayor.

Souper Freak owner Irene Smith said Gillard approached her truck Wednesday morning near Calvert and Monument streets. Gillard told Smith that she was in violation of an ordinance prohibiting her truck from being within 300 feet of a retail establishment selling similar merchandise.

Smith said she offered to move, but Gillard told her that her real problem had to do with proper permits. Tony Richardson, co-owner of the Iced Gems food truck, which was parked nearby, was also warned.

The city is 100 percent in support of street vendors and food trucks in particular, Gillard said, but “also has a responsibility to make sure all of the vendors are properly regulated and also to ensure that existing retail operations are not unfairly affected by their presence.”