By Selene Raj
Food trucks have become a popular alternative to dine-in eating during the COVID-19 pandemic– but they have faced restrictions in several cities, including Tamarac.
Current regulations in Tamarac require food trucks to obtain special event or temporary use permits to operate within the city.
Temporary use permits come with an application fee of $1,000, and a special events permit costs $700. In addition to those fees, a $50 fee is required for fire inspection.
At the Tamarac city commission’s latest meeting, the fees during the pandemic came into question.
Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton spoke about a conversation he had with a new restaurant owner in Tamarac who was using a food truck to generate more revenue while business was unusually slow.
The owner was operating a food truck in front of his restaurant once a month and was unaware of the restrictions.
“He did not know about the permitting process, and even if he knew, he could not afford it,” said Bolton.
Bolton said the business owner was literally on his last dime for rent and having opened just before the pandemic; he is especially struggling. After hearing that he’d no longer be able to bring in additional income with the food truck, he was disheartened.
Bolton suggested relaxing the restrictions on food trucks by allowing businesses such as the one he mentioned, to fill out temporary use and special event permits for food trucks without the hefty application fee.
“The staff has to follow the ordinances that are passed by the commission– that doesn’t allow for us to find a creative solution,” said City Manager Michael Cernech, who added that he didn’t want to sound hard-hearted, but he didn’t want to come up with a solution just for one business when other businesses have had to pay for their permits.
“I’m not asking for special treatment for this business– I’m asking for a program that is general for all of the businesses that may want a food truck as an extension of their restaurant, and not for a long time, for a short window,” said Bolton.
He compared it to the application for outdoor seating being waived for businesses during this time, under the emergency order from the city manager.
Mayor Michelle Gomez inquired about the business receiving assistance from the forthcoming assistance program for local businesses. However, Bolton said the program hadn’t been introduced yet, and businesses still need income.
Commissioner Julie Fishman asked Community Development Director Maxine Calloway about the reason for the application fee.
Calloway clarified the fee covers the staff’s time for administering the permit and a fire inspection — though, the fire inspection is an additional, separate, $50 fee.
In the end, the commissioners agreed to request that Cernech, Calloway, and the city staff look into the possibility of addressing restaurants who cannot afford to pay the food truck fee by including them in a temporary emergency order.
Tamarac Talk will keep residents posted if this emergency order is enacted.
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master's in Mass Communications in 2020, and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.