ST. PETE BEACH – Food trucks will no longer be able to randomly set up shop within the business district of St. Pete Beach.
City commissioners voted 3-2 to pass an ordinance on first reading Aug. 22 that regulates food trucks through the use of conditional use permits issued by the city. Commissioners Terri Finnerty and Rick Falkenstein, along with Mayor Al Johnson, voted for the measure while Ward Friszolowski and Melinda Pletcher voted against it.
The ordinance is modeled after a city of St. Petersburg ordinance and would go into effect following second reading, which will most likely take place Sept. 12.
The ordinance regulates food trucks on private property within the commercial core of the city along Corey Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, no closer than 200 feet from a residential area. Food trucks would remain illegal to operate on public property unless in conjunction with a special event permit. Trucks would be limited to three consecutive days at a site.
Among those objecting to the proposed ordinance was Matthew Dahm, CEO and founder of Mastry’s Brewing Co., 7701 Blind Pass Road, who currently uses food trucks as an amenity for his customers. Under an earlier agreement with the city, Mastry’s is allowed to have food trucks on site 14 days a month, three to four hours at a time.
“In my opinion, this ordinance is currently constructed in an unfair manner that would not allow Mastry’s Brewing Co. to properly operate in a sufficient manner that would actually become harmful to our business,” Dahm said. “Every single day I have customers coming in asking if we have a food truck that day. I’m supplying something our customers continuously request from us.”
Dahm said he also has the endorsement of nearby businesses.
“As far as a conditional use permit goes, I feel it should be under an accessory to a business, not a conditional use,” Dahm said. “It’s an accessory. It’s temporary. It’s never on site for more than three to four hours per day, a few days a week. It’s no different than when I bring a live musician in to perform and provide entertainment in a three- to four-hour window. It’s something my customers request.”
St. Petersburg attorney Don Mastry, who is no relation to the owners of Mastry’s Brewing but is representing the business, said Mastry’s Brewing should be grand-fathered in and immune to the proposed ordinance.
“This city granted permits for (Mastry’s Brewing) on its premises,” said Mastry. “As recently as May and June of this year, (the city) granted permits for 14 days in each of those months. It is our position that Mastry’s is grand-fathered by the fact that it has already received permits.”
Ironically, Mastry’s Brewing recently received a notice from the city that it is in violation of city code by having food trucks on its property. The city contends the business is in violation because a previous special use permit has expired. Mastry’s contends special use permits can only be issued for public property. A hearing is scheduled Sept. 11.
“My concern is this is not in the best interest of the city,” said Friszolowski.
Pletcher said the city needs to think in terms of “fairness to our existing businesses.”
Keith Overton, president of the TradeWinds Island Resorts, said he has no issues with food trucks.
“As the owner of the single largest restaurant on St. Pete Beach and seven others, I really have no problem with this,” Overton said. “If you look at Clearwater, they’re kicking our butt. Why? Because they have so many things to offer. We’re behind on our land development plan and we’ve got dilapidated properties. What makes this beach cool is all the things there are to do. Why not add one more thing? Is it really hurting anybody? Probably not.”
Under terms of the ordinance, food trucks would be prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages and would be allowed to operate from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Once a conditional use permit is granted, a food truck operator would be able to renew it annually for a nominal fee.
In other action, commissioners:
• Passed an ordinance on final reading allowing alcohol consumption on the beach by hotel guests in a cabana area.
• Passed a resolution to allow a paddleboard and kayak rental business at 4211 Gulf Blvd., but failed to act on a request by the business to allow customers to use McPherson Bayou, located behind the business, for patrons to launch into. Numerous residents whose homes back up to McPherson Bayou expressed security concerns.