As the mobile food truck scene thrives in Denver and Colorado Springs, in Pueblo they have to fight antiquated city ordinances just to hit the streets.
The Pueblo City Center Partnership has continued its City Center Eats event after a successful first year, but the vendors say they have difficulty prospering in Pueblo outside of the El Pueblo Museum parking lot because of the city’s unclear and unspecified permitting process.
City Center Eats had an estimate of more than 150 attendees to welcome the vendors for the summer at the El Pueblo Museum on their first Thursday on June 4. Adults, teens and children lined up to try the different cuisines that each food truck had to offer in the parking lot of the museum, and the turnout was one of the biggest that the event has seen since its inception last summer.
City Center Eats is hosted every Thursday from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. at the El Pueblo History Museum during the summer and is composed of five or six local food trucks, a mobile boutique, live music and activities for children.
Brittany Gutierrez, City Center Eats Coordinator observed the booming business and success of the food truck culture of Denver and became inspired to start a similar event in Pueblo. In Denver mobile food trucks can park on street sides and they also have an event called Civic Center Eats at the Civic Center where more than 20 trucks line up every Tuesday and Thursday, Gutierrez said.
“A couple of years ago I went to Denver and they pretty much have every food truck you could ever imagine up there and I was just obsessed,” Gutierrez said.
Parking as a mobile business in Pueblo is not very easy. The permitting process and dealing with the tax office has put vendors in limbo because there are restrictions limiting them to how long and where they can park.
Melissa Turner, the owner of Sweet Peas Mobile Boutique said that within Pueblo city limits her mobile business cannot set up on streets and is required to park on private property because there is a no street sale rule. This rule restricts mobile businesses from parking and selling their products on street sides and in neighborhoods.
Unlike the permit processes in both Colorado Springs and Denver, mobile businesses in Pueblo must acquire multiple permits throughout the year to park in different locations.
Dylan Mosley, the owner of Vore Grilled Cheese Gastro-truck in Colorado Springs said that with his Peddler’s License he can park anywhere in Colorado Springs within the city limits that is not metered.
“It’s torturous; the city is not mobile friendly unfortunately,” Turner said about the permitting process in Pueblo.
In the city of Pueblo mobile businesses are required to obtain a Temporary Use Permit for every location for which they wish to park. These permits cost $100 upfront and $75 is supposed to be returned after a vendor vacates the spot.
According to the Temporary Use Permit form, a mobile business cannot exceed 30 days in the spot that the permit is used for in an entire calendar year. For owners such as Turner she said that this stipulation defeats the purpose of being mobile.
“I don’t want to be parked anywhere for 30 days,” she said. “It makes it a little challenging because it undermines the process of a mobile business.”
Chester Schmidt the owner of Chester’s Smokin’ BBQ echoed similar beliefs when he said, “It’s tough to get things going.”
He said that the taxes that are involved with starting a mobile business are what make things difficult in Pueblo.
“It’s torturous; the city is not mobile friendly unfortunately.” – Melissa Turner, Owner of Swet Peas Mobile Boutique
Signatures from Planning and Community Development, The Regional Building Department, The Pueblo Fire Department and The Environmental Health Department must be obtained before a mobile business can receive a Temporary Use Permit.
The taxes, licenses, loans, permits and insurance make the beginning hard on mobile businesses Schmidt said.
Vendors are welcomed in the county and Pueblo West where they have more freedom to park in different locations.
Slug & Chug co-owner Tonya Wyles said, “In Pueblo West they are excited to have us and are making it easy.”
Wyles and her husband also set up off of exit 108 where commuters stop and where vendors are not required to have all the permits that are needed in Pueblo city limits.
Turner said she has frustrations about the tax office because there are no set regulations.
Turner has been charged different prices for the same permits on different occasions. She said it would be helpful if there was a book that the tax office could give to mobile businesses, especially new ones just starting out, that outlines the prices for permits and that has different lengths of time that a mobile business can be allotted for at different locations.
“Every year just dealing with the tax people is a pain in the butt,” Schmidt said.
The Peddlers Licenses that are used in Colorado Springs and Denver allow vendors to park anywhere as long as it is not invading a special event, in metered areas. Pueblo vendors are limited to the spaces that the can park and are required to get a Temporary Use Permit for every location they wish to park.
City Center Eats was able to gain a Special Event Permit that allowed the vendors to attend the event each Thursday without having to request a Temporary Use Permit every 30 days of the summer, Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said it is harder for food truck vendors on their own rather than through a special event permit because they cannot park in a space more than 30 days because they are considered to be an actual business and have to start paying property taxes.
“A lot (of vendors) can’t survive in the city limits because of that rule,” she said.
One player that has been accommodating for vendors has been the Health Department. Schmidt said that the Health Department was wonderful throughout the process of getting his truck started.
“The Health Department has been nothing but helpful the whole time. They weren’t a hindrance at all and they didn’t make it hard,” Wyles said.
Even though surviving as a business in the city of Pueblo is difficult, the vendors at City Center Eats still try to promote other local businesses.
Turner said that when people ask her about different restaurants and shops she directs them toward locally owned businesses if they are not interested in the food trucks. She said that it would be beneficial to work with other businesses to create partnerships and advantageous to develop relationships for the community to work with each other.
Brenda Luna Martinez, co-owner of Mr. Philly’s said that she and her husband try to support local businesses when they buy their products. Wyles also said she gets all of her food fresh and local to support small and local businesses.
Although the business has been hard outside of City Center Eats, Gutierrez and the vendors are hoping that the permitting process will get easier because the attendance for the first couple of events has been positive. Gutierrez said that she was extremely happy about the turnout at the first City Center Eats event on June 4 and hopes that the number of people attending continues to grow.
“I hope that eventually we’ll have more food trucks even to the point that we are growing out of El Pueblo History Museum,” she said, “maybe even be multiple days like Denver.”