Food carts, or mobile food vendors who operate in Salem are currently required to move every six months – even to a half block away – but the ordinance responsible for this is being reviewed by City staff.
A change in the law would mean a significant relief for Eva Villaneda, owner of La Guerita, a taqueria that operates in a tent on State Street. Now Villaneda must move her operation twice a year, from a better spot on the corner of 25th St and Center, to a location about a half block west.
“It’s much better on the corner,” Villaneda says, “sometimes I have 20 people in line. But here, people don’t see me as much.”
Salem’s current mobile food unit ordinance was enacted in the 1990s, but Ward 5 City Councilor Diana Dickey, who favors a change, points out that, “a lot has changed since that time, and there is a lot of consumer demand for mobile food units.” Dickey has spoken with several food cart vendors and says they all tell her that having to move makes it difficult to maintain a customer base.
John Jordan, owner of Thermopylae, the Greek cart restaurant that moves about a mile up and down Commercial Street SE every six months, has to shut down for several weeks each time so he can be reconnected to electricity by PGE and receive an inspection. As far as changing the ordanance, Jordan says, “It’s not fun to have to move, and it’s not fun to have customers have to track you down. If they can do anything I’m all for it.”
Dickey says that Salem city staff is reviewing the ways other Oregon cities handle the issue. “While Portland has probably the most well-known example of food cart areas, other cities have ordinances as well. The idea is to get a range of options for updating the ordinance, and then assess what might work well in Salem.”
She believes that, “at a minimum, the 6-month rule should be changed or eliminated.”