Statesboro City Council completed the steps Tuesday for regulating retail food trucks, setting the annual business license fee at $200 per truck and the location permit fee at $25 for each site at which the operator does business directly with the public.
The council had unanimously approved the Mobile Food Service Ordinance on a final, second reading Jan. 19 after approving a revised first reading Jan. 5. An earlier draft of the new city law would have allowed food trucks and pushcarts to operate with property owner permission almost anywhere in the city limits, except within 200 feet of the main door of any restaurant without its owner’s permission.
But the final version, now in effect, limits food trucks and pushcarts to commercial zones, with some exceptions.
The final step, left for Tuesday morning’s meeting, was an amendment adding the fees to the city’s annual schedule of fees, rates and fines.
District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum asked how much the business license fees are for a regular, brick-and-mortar restaurant. A restaurant business license costs $95, plus $20 per full-time employee annually. Additionally, brand-new restaurants pay a $40 one-time application fee, noted City Clerk Leah Harden.
“I’m just curious why we set it up differently, since they’re essentially the same thing, just one has wheels,” Boyum said.
Both are subject to Fire Department inspections, City Attorney Cain Smith agreed in discussion with Boyum. But Smith said that because food trucks operate at multiple locations “the standards might be higher.” Statesboro’s new fees are based on those of other jurisdictions, he said, mentioning Savannah particularly.
Savannah’s online mobile food service unit permit application shows a $200 annual fee per unit plus a $25 unit application fee. Savannah also has fees of $200 to $500 per-unit for “food truck rodeo” events.
Smith noted that Statesboro’s mayor and council could set the fees at whatever amounts they wanted. On a motion from District 2 Councilwoman Paulette Chavers seconded by District 4 Councilman John Riggs, the council unanimously approved the recommended fees of $200 per truck and $25 per approved site.
Asked about these fees later, Harden confirmed that the operator of a food truck with one approved site will have to pay $225 annually, and the operator of a single truck doing business with the public from three different sites would pay $275 annually, for example.
A truck operator who adds a site during the year will be expected to pay an additional $25 for site review and approval, she said.
The ordinance contains an exemption so that no additional site fee or approval would be required for a food truck that operates for a one-time party at a home in a residential zone, hired by the resident and not charging each customer directly.
With a city permit, operators of food trucks may park on private property where they have written permission from the property owners and sell prepared foods the public. To obtain the city permit, food truck and pushcart operators must obtain a separate Bulloch County Health Department or Georgia Department of Agriculture inspection certificate and permit, comply with national fire safety standards, pay the city fees and provide a list of operating locations for city approval.
The ordinance also provides for food trucks based elsewhere to operate in Statesboro with proof of another jurisdiction’s business license, but this still requires Statesboro’s site approval and permit.
The enacted ordinance allows food trucks in all of Statesboro’s commercial zones, but food truck vendors are prohibited from making direct sales to customers in residential areas except with a special limited variance that can be granted by the city planning and development director, such as for a neighborhood festival or church event.
Without location approval, residents who own or lease a home may also hire a licensed food truck for an event lasting not more than eight hours and not more than once in any 60-day period. Intended for events such as birthday parties, this will be allowed only if the vendor does not conduct any “point of sale transactions” at the residence.
The ordinance includes noise and signage regulations, and it still prohibits vendors from operating within 200 feet of the main door of any restaurant without its owner’s permission. Food trucks can provide temporary seating only if at least 400 feet from any restaurant.
Operating a food truck in a public right of way is still prohibited, except when streets are closed for certain city-sanctioned events.
The revised schedule of fines and fees also includes the fines previously noted for violations of the ordinance: $250 for a first offense, $350 for a second offense and a $500 fine or possible revocation of the permit for a third violation within 12 months.