Food carts in the City of Stoughton now have an ordinance guiding where and how they operate.
That ordinance also includes a prohibition on drive-thru food carts.
The Common Council passed the food cart ordinance with the drive-thru restriction at its Tuesday, June 8, meeting. After more than 40 minutes of discussion, and a proposed change to withdraw the restriction, alders voted 10-2 to pass the ordinance as is, with Alds. Jean Ligocki (Dist. 2), and Rachel Venegas (D-1) voting in opposition.
The new ordinance affects any food cart vendors that want to operate in the city on either a long-term or temporary basis. Particularly, the ordinance will have an immediate impact on Rise and Grind Coffee that operates in a drive-thru fashion out of Pick n’ Save parking lot and has for the past year.
Rise and Grind will be required to stop their drive-thru service once the ordinance is signed and published, which is expected to happen within a week, Mayor Tim Swadley told the Hub in an email.
The food cart can still have walk up service, at this time.
The discussion by alders and city staff focused on if food carts in other municipalities operate in drive-thru fashion, and what would the approval process of the food cart permits look like if there was no drive-thru restriction.
Ligocki, referencing future developments and future opportunities, suggested an amendment to remove the prohibition of drive-thru. Ald. Fred Hundt (D-4) seconded it.
“I think that with our growth, I would like us to be more careful. I don’t want us to limit this, in this way, at this time.” Ligocki said. “I think it is bad optics, and with our future growth, I still feel that the safety issues are being addressed and it ties our hands.”
Before the vote on the change, city attorney Matt Dregne clarified the review process of food cart permits. Per the ordinance, the zoning administrator can approve or deny the permit for the food cart. Dregne said that the language in the ordinance should have clear guidance for zoning administrator approval, so there is little room for interpretation.
“It is more like a building permit review process, where someone wants a building permit to build a single family home, they submit an application to the building inspector and there are very clear standards that govern that decision,” he said. “You either meet the electrical code requirements, or you do not.”
City planning director Rodney Scheel, who has been involved in the ordinance drafting process, added that if the ordinance passed without the restriction and wasn’t replaced with any guidance on what drive-thru food carts should look like it would put city staff in a tough position.
The amendment to remove the restriction was denied 8-4, with Brett Schumacher (D-1), Ligocki, Venegas and Hundt voting in favor of the amendment.
Alders and city staff also focused on how other municipalities permit food cart service.
Co-owner of Rise and Grind Morgan Elliott who spoke during the public comment period told the council there are two carts, Tastee Creme and
Bullwinkle’s Coffee, that operate with a drive-thru service in Brodhead. Keri Miller, treasurer/deputy clerk of the City of Brodhead, told the Hub that these two businesses are stationary and were not considered food carts during their review process with the city.
In reference to a May 28 Stoughton Courier Hub article that stated Madison, Oregon, Fitchburg and Monona do not prohibit food carts but require an approval process through the zoning administrator, Mayor Tim Swadley said he followed up with those municipalities. While all municipalities do not not prohibit drive-thru food carts, respective city staffers told Swadley they did not have any requests for that service, he added.