Cafe Society

Love your food truck? Show your support at tomorrow's Denver City Council meeting, where street food guidelines are on the plate

"Dear fans, I would like to apologize for not been able to serve you on Market Street as planned," begins the letter from Michel Wahaltere, the driver -- and driving force -- behind Chicago Louie's, the sausage-slinging paddy wagon that joined Denver's street-food movement on New Year's Eve. "I have been on Market Street five times since I first launched Chicago Louie's, and my first three trips were without any issues from local businesses -- Lavish, Maloney's Tavern, Mynt and Oak Tavern/24K. On the contrary, I have been welcomed with open arms," continues Wahaltere's note, just before it turns sour.

According to Wahaltere, a street-cart vendor called the cops -- not once, but twice -- to gripe about Chicago Louie's invasion of his personal space, which led to the arrival of one of Denver's finest, who seemed oblivious to the regulations governing pavement cuisine. "The police officer who responded to the call wasn't sure of the rules, even after consulting with other officers in the area, but he saw no problem with where I was parked," says Wahaltere, who relayed to the officer a conversation he'd had earlier with an official at the Denver Department of Community Planning and Development, which includes zoning, during which they discussed parking at a meter in LoDo after 10 p.m.

"When I initially got the permit, I asked about parking at meters, and the exact words from the zoning employee were "Who cares after 10 p.m.? Nobody does business after 10 p.m., so go ahead.'" Nonetheless, say Wahaltere, "the police officer then told me that it would be better if I moved to the 18th/19th street area because the caller, Tim, would keep calling to complain about my truck's non-compliance with the law. The officer wanted to avoid going through the same thing over and over all night long and so moving seemed to be the easiest solution to him. I guess he didn't want to tell Tim that he wasn't sure about the rules for food trucks in regard to zoning."

If you follow this blog, you already know about Clementine and Clyde, the two Denver Cupcake Trucks that were grounded late last year by owners Sean and Denon Moore after problems with Denver's planning department. At the moment, Clyde and Clementine are sequestered in an undisclosed holding cell, but their fate, along with the future of all Denver street-food trucks, could become clearer tomorrow, when Denver City Council's committee on Business, Workforce and Sustainability convenes to discuss street-food vending guidelines.

The meeting, which gets under way at 1:30 p.m. in Room 391 of the City and County Building, 1437 Bannock Street, is open to the public, and if you don't want to see your favorite food trucks disappear, you might want to motor over there.

In the meantime, Wahaltere, who ultimately made the decision not to argue with the cop, eventually left LoDo and relocated to the Golden Triangle 'hood, where, he notes, he parked on the sidewalk -- illegal in Denver -- and encountered no grief whatsoever from the parade of police cars patrolling the area, is making another date with Denver officials. "I will go to the zoning department to clarify the issue and to ask for a letter mentioning that after 10 p.m., I have permission to serve at parking meters," he says. "I know that I want to have it done right."

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