Earlier attempt to establish food cart fizzled
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Red tape snares food carts
On August 1, 2010, Kelli Crocker unlocked the gates of the former C-Tran pocket park on West Seventh Street near Main Street in downtown Vancouver.
She had a jewelry vendor selling wares from the former bus ticket booth. A few folks sold fresh fish and grass-fed beef. And — a possible first for the city — there was a barbecue food cart.
Crocker leased the property from local developer Dean Irvin, who bought it in early 2010 from the city. She said Irvin told her she just needed a business license to start her venture, which she named the Seventh Street Courtyard.
So she was dismayed when just a few weeks later, she got a letter saying she would need to secure health clearance and go through a city site review plan for the cart, which takes about six to eight weeks.
She said Irvin told her “he’d take care of it” with the city, and she continued her business. But at the end of October, she got a much more strictly worded letter saying she was still out of compliance.
Crocker said that a two-month shutdown while they went through review wasn’t sustainable for her or her vendors. She shut it down, and walked out on her lease.
“When I boil it down to one thing, I feel I was misinformed as to how much work needed to be done before I could even open the gates,” she said. “I was new to something like this. In hindsight, don’t listen to the landlord, go to the city, go to the health department first.”
Irvin disputes her account, and said that he even agreed to pay for the $800 site plan review and for any plumbing or other improvements the health department asked for. Crocker confirmed that Irvin said he would pay. He also paid $540 for signs for the courtyard.
Irvin said that Crocker, who also owns Nutz-R-Us, a roasting business, got in over her head and bailed.
“It’s complicated with the city and state to make sure you know what needs to be done,” said Irvin, who has the location for rent again through his Billy Dean Leasing company. “I’m not a part of that. I make sure zoning’s proper. The lease says it’s up to you get the proper governmental information.”
Both Crocker and Irvin said that the city’s policy for food carts is a bit arduous, but did say they were pleased with how receptive city officials were to trying to establish a food cart.
“We figured out a way to do it,” Irvin said. “It wasn’t about the rent, we offered to suspend it. It wasn’t about the permits, we offered to pay it. We were going to pay for it all, it makes no sense to me.”