Garden City’s Neighborhood and Development Services staff on Tuesday broke down proposed changes to its local itinerant business licenses, permits that determine whether food trucks, door-to-door contractors and other mobile businesses can legally operate within city limits.

Garden City’s current policy offers separate itinerant business licenses for non-local and local businesses, the latter defined as a business that has operated a 1,000-square-foot permanent physical location for at least a year.

The difference in fees between the two licenses are staggering — local businesses are charged $365 for a year, while non-local businesses are charged $300 per day or $900 per month — and has long made it impossible for new and old Garden City-based food trucks to operate within city limits, many instead setting up shop just outside town.

The new policy, a version of which the Garden City Commission will consider as early as next month, hopes to address some of those problems, said Neighborhood and Development Services director Kaleb Kentner.

“It’s important to note the whole purpose of the itinerant license is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public,” Kentner said.

The proposed new policy eliminates the distinction between local and non-local businesses, defines and sets standards for food trucks operating in the city and updates the fee structure, Kentner said. The new structure, for now, includes daily, monthly and annual license options, with one option offering an $1,800 annual license, $150 monthly license and $30 daily license, and the other offering a $3,650 annual license, $300 monthly license and $50 daily license. The fees are not set in stone, Kentner said.

As with the current policy, the licenses only apply to non-brick-and-mortar businesses that operate more than six days a year in the state. Food trucks or other businesses asked to participate in nonprofit community events, such as Food Truck Fridays, Fall Fest and Art in the Park, are approved under a different process through the event planner, Kentner said.

After hearing staff, commissioner and community feedback Tuesday, any aspect of the proposed policy, including fees, may be updated before reaching the commission next month, Kentner said.

The proposed fee changes are clearly welcome, but are still lacking, food truck owners said. Ice Guys Lemonade co-owner Tim Livermore and Natalie’s Aguas Frescas owner Edgar Loza told commissioners that a $900 annual fee — half of the less expensive of the two proposed annual options — would be fair.

But the ideal situation is to qualify for the current local fee, Livermore, Ice Guys co-owner John Rupp, Pinky’s Grilled Cheestro owner Candice Rodriguez and New Grind Coffee owner Callie Drummond told The Telegram.

Food trucks are a costly business before considering the itinerant business fee, Rodriguez and Drummond said. They have to consider commercial insurance, gas, electricity, insurance, propane or generators, wages, supplies and credit card processing systems. They pay rent to property owners to let them set up shop and the same licensing fees as brick-and-mortar restaurants, they said. Before Rodriguez sells anything, it has cost her $200 in expenses just to open for the day, she said.

“I think the city should be aware of how expensive it is upfront,” Drummond said.

The distinction between local and non-local is not a bad policy, Drummond, Rupp and Rodriguez said. Garden City-based food trucks are paying taxes, generating revenue and giving back to nonprofits locally, Drummond said, while non-local trucks are not. They just want to qualify as local without having the added, and sometimes currently unfeasible, expense of a storefront.

To further complicate the discussion, food trucks aren’t the only mobile businesses to be considered. Eliminating the local/non-local distinction makes sense for food trucks that don’t seriously compete with established, property tax-paying brick-and-mortar businesses, said Lona DuVall, president and CEO of the Finney County Economic Development Corp. But that distinction is vital to protecting local contractors and other businesses from traveling, door-to-door competitors.

Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce president Myca Bunch and Marshall Anliker, owner of new Garden City business Assurance Exteriors, agreed.

“One of the biggest reasons we decided to open our office here as opposed to somewhere else in southwest Kansas was the strong regulations behind protecting local business. There’s a giant incentive for us to open a brick-and-mortar shop here and for us to base our southwest Kansas operations here because of the current guidelines,” Anliker said.

Audience members suggested creating a separate fee structure for food trucks and maintaining the current structure, or something similar for other itinerant businesses, like door-to-door contractors.

Neighborhood and Development Services will edit the proposals and present them to the city commission in the first week of August, at the earliest.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.