In cities across America, the food truck industry appears to be thriving, offering everything from gourmet cuisine to waffle sandwiches dripping in cheese.

But in the city of Santa Fe, regulations have inhibited the industry’s expansion.

That could change under a proposal policymakers are considering that would ease restrictions and open up the market not just for food trucks but also for other mobile vendors.

Currently, the city issues only 15 permits to so-called street vendors: 10 to sell food and five to sell other kinds of merchandise. The permits to sell food disappear faster than a honey-soaked sopaipilla at Tia Sophia’s. These permits are separate from the limited number of permits that allow sales on the Santa Fe Plaza.

Under a proposed ordinance, which is aimed at creating business opportunities and giving consumers more choices, the city would offer an unlimited number of permits to what would now be called vehicle vendors.

Removal of the cap on the number of permits issued under the new ordinance would not be limited to the sale of food and drink, but would include sales of merchandise, such as a picture-framing shop on wheels, and services, such as a mobile manicurist.

“It really opens up a lot of business opportunities for people that didn’t exist before,” Matt O’Reilly, the city’s asset development director, said Tuesday.

The ordinance includes a number of rules and restrictions. For example, mobile vendors would be prohibited from parking for more than three hours a day at any one location or within a 300-foot radius of any location where they previously parked the same day, unless they’re part of a special event. Food trucks also would be prohibited from parking within a 150-foot radius of the street-level entrance of any restaurant during the restaurant’s operating hours unless they have permission or are participating in a special event.

The ordinance creates a distinction between mobile vehicle vendors and stationary vehicle vendors. While the city doesn’t propose to limit the number of stationary vehicle vendors operating on private property, these businesses would have to comply with zoning and other land-use requirements.

Under an accompanying resolution, the city would allow mobile vehicle vendors to sell within the coveted “Plaza periphery,” an area bounded on the west by Sandoval Street and Grant Avenue, by Alameda Street on the south, Paseo de Peralta on the east and Marcy Street on the north. The city would designate three on-street parking spaces on the south side of Palace Avenue adjacent to First National Bank for use by mobile vehicle vendors only between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m., when the bank is closed.

The three spaces would be available on a first-come, first-served basis, which generated concerns for City Councilor Patti Bushee during Monday’s meeting of the city Public Works Committee.

Bushee questioned whether other businesspeople, such as vendors on the Plaza, would “resent” the city allowing mobile vehicle vendors on what is “essentially the Plaza.” Bushee also suggested the city give preferential treatment to the Street Food Institute, which has a truck that serves as a mobile classroom for culinary students at Santa Fe Community College.

“If we’re going to build in spots, I think nonprofits should have the first shot,” she said. “It just feels like treating them different might be OK. I just think we’re going to cause problems where we didn’t have problems before, the way the resolution is written.”

Bushee said she had “no problem” with the ordinance, but she abstained from voting on the resolution, saying she had questions and wanted to talk to the sponsor, City Councilor Signe Lindell.

Lindell said Tuesday that she plans to bring the resolution forward as written and that the city could conduct a review in three or six months to gauge how it’s working.

“We don’t know if we’re going to get people that want those three spots or if we won’t get people,” she said, adding that if the three spots prove “wildly successful, we could consider adding a few more spots.”

Mobile food trucks produced positive responses last year during a three-night, city-sponsored downtown festival called Night Wave. Three food trucks were part of the event, generating $5,600 in sales combined. Organizers of the event reported that most people surveyed said they would eat at a food truck at least 50 percent of the time when they went out to the bars.

“Food trucks were a key component to Night Wave’s success,” organizers wrote. “They created an energy and aesthetic that felt vibrant and welcoming and less aggressive. More money was spent by attendees, and the overall quality of experience was increased.”

The proposed resolution allowing mobile vehicle vendors within the Plaza periphery is tied to an initiative by Mayor Javier Gonzales to bring more people to the city’s historic square. As part of the so-called People to the Plaza initiative, the city analyzed existing ordinances related to food sales.

Gonzales, one of four co-sponsors of the ordinance easing restrictions on mobile food vendors, said he was excited about the opportunities it presented.

“There’s a whole sector of businesses that we’re falling behind on, from food trucks to mobile art galleries and more,” he said, “and I think we’re going to find that Santa Fe has a generation of young entrepreneurs with a lot of variety to offer this community.”

City Councilor Chris Rivera said Monday that during neighborhood meetings in his district, he met three people who “specifically asked” that the city ease up the rules governing mobile food vendors.

“They live here in the city of Santa Fe, and they travel every day to Rio Rancho or Albuquerque to basically sell their product because they could not get … a license here in the city,” said Rivera, another co-sponsor.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing, at least for those three people,” he said, “and I imagine there may be more once the rules are eased up a little bit.”

Contact Daniel J. Chacon at 986-3089 or Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(22) comments

John Moore

Food Trucks are highly regulated in some measures more than brick and mortar establishments. They don't cook their food in their garage. They employ trained staff and create taxable revenue. If you are interested in the business, please visit our website. We have assisted many of the wonderful ABQ mobile restaurants.
John Moore
Executive Director

Donado Coviello

[spam] Just what we need ... Albuquerque ptomaine.[scared]

Joseph Sanchez

I don’t trust catering to these food trucks for the simple reason they’re a one man operation and it poses possible heath issues!
In restaurants there are many eyes watching one another and employees are watchful not to prepare or serve food that may have been mishandle, dropped on the floor, hand cleanness, utensils properly clean!

Food is restaurants are prepare fresh on a daily basis and constantly moving, standards must be in order at all times. In one man operations there is no one to watch how food is handled, food that is not sold on that day is it warmed up on a daily basis until sold? Weather counters were food are prepared are they sanitized, hands, health codes, etc.
Some of these truck food vendors’ exteriors are deplorable looking, I can imagine the interior.
I don’t trust eating in any of these places.

henry Griswold


Ronald Ortiz

Proper food preparation involves two major things in my opinion, respect for the person you are preparing it for and a passion to transport people on a culinary experience.
I do not condone your opinion that many eyes matter when preparing food, have you ever walked into a Blake's and seen your food made on a dirty prep table? and that's just some of the places you can see the food preparation. For that matter I have seen carts of meat and such being shuttled down a sidewalk from a preparation facility to the actual restaurant.
I am sorry you have never had a great experience at a Food Truck. Maybe if this measure passes you just might?

Kiki Martinez

Sounds like an outrageous, bad idea all the way around.

Donado Coviello

I know this is hard kids but try to think about how incompetent Patti Bushee and other City Councilors have been with your tax dollars and how corrupt the system has become. Parks and trails bonding; Parking Division stealing; rigged Plaza vendor selection, and Councilors determine who uses City Parks and property for free.

Ronald Ortiz

For the Councilor to abstain from voting proves self interest. Why shouldn't a non-profit have to vie for a spot at the table, especially if it's education based. Why lower the bar for a non-profit? What does that teach them?
It should be amicable for everyone.
Foodtrucks in the US created $857m with an average growth of 9.3% Annual growth from 2010-2015. There are about 14,900 people currently employed within 4,042 licensed business. There are no companies with a dominate share in this market defining it as a growing market. In the five years to 2020, favorable consumer trends will continue to underpin moderate revenue growth, but the industry will need to work with municipal governments to resolve the remaining legal challenges to food truck operations. Open free market to new ventures. This is called forward progress.

Donado Coviello

"Open free market ..." in Santa Fe, you freakin' nuts.
"work with municipal governments" in Santa Fe? You must be new here.

Donado Coviello

Isn't the mobile unit mentioned in the story from the Community College a $100,000.00 truck sponsored by PNM rate payers?

Donado Coviello

The City is adding two more food pushcart to plaza this year as if more supply creates more demand. Government can't create a lively street scene, it can force people to come here. So-called progressives like Bushee can't even make it safe for tourist and families to come downtown. Patti hates Mom-and-Pop businesses in her district that includes the Plaza. In fact I think LGBT politicians hate anything Mom-and-Pop. Giving free parking at the Railyard and savagely ticketing the cars downtown will not bring economic growth to the Plaza (BCD).

Donado Coviello

The downtown is dead except for the dope dealers ... who needs more food vendors?

Pierce Knolls

Hey, dope dealers and aggressive panhandlers need to eat, too.

Donado Coviello

The crack and methheads don't eat food and the pothead eat a lot but only junk food like Twinkies. The bums only drink. The overpaid municipal workers like the double-dipping City Clerk ($180,000 a year) are the only people that can afford to buy lunch downtown.

Mark Bahti

wonder if they involved plaza restaurants and businesses in the discussion?

(of course they didn't)

Everyone wants a piece of the Plaza

Rick Dumiak

This is a good step forward but the 3 hour rule is absurd, make it least 6 hours so a truck can set up prep and serve more than a few meals. Food trucks are a great alternative to brick and mortar food establishments and they bring vibrancy to a city.

Donado Coviello

And "Food trucks are great ..." because they are a cash business and can cheat on paying taxes. PLUS you don't have to pay property tax that funds schools.[huh][huh][huh]

karl hardy

I am not in the restaurant business, and i would "resent" food trucks when rents around the Plaza are what $30,000.00 plus as was reported about the Coyote Cafe........

and other businesses like manicures??????? really??? get a room

Pat Shackleford

“Food trucks were a key component to Night Wave’s success,” organizers wrote. “They created an energy and aesthetic that felt vibrant and welcoming and less aggressive."

Really? "vibrant'? And, "less aggressive"? Than what? Table-side prep by a knife-juggling surly sous chef? What drugs are you on, to come up with hollow nonsense like that, and expect people to swallow it without wincing, or laughing?

It's not surprising that downtown bar-hoppers appreciate the option of grabbing a bite between sets, without committing to a sit-down restaurant. I expect the city to conduct proper inspections of these meals-on-wheels, in order to weed-out unsanitary fry by night operators.

Elizabeth Pettus

I believe that food safety regulations are enforced by the state, not the city.

Donado Coviello

That's right, the City only controls zoning, licensing, safety and architectural standards, use permits, fees for public lands, laws and the bags we use.
How do I know that? I watch the City's TV station and I get daily emails from City Hall and i often go to the City's web page. I'm sure the State will do as good a job protecting me from germs as Santa Fe government is do protecting their own ass.

Steve Salazar

And those food safety regulations have to apply to all food trucks.

Welcome to the discussion.

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