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Commerce City is tough on its food trucks

While food trucks are on a roll in Denver, Commerce City has been putting the brakes on the business.

A few years ago, when construction in Commerce City was picking up, especially on the north end of town, there was a related rise in complaints about mobile food vendors. "They were picking the prime real estate but not necessarily the safest," says Michelle Halsted, communication director for Commerce City. That prime real estate included corners with heavy traffic.

As a result of community carping, Commerce City revamped its rules regulating what it calls "outside vendors" -- although these "outside vendors" are almost exclusively food trucks, since event vendors apply for a different license.

Unlike Denver, which does not require its mobile vendors to name specific addresses where they intend to do business, Commerce City does. And not only that, but an ordinance passed in 2007 required that vendors get different licenses for each location. Luckily, a revision of the entire municipal code this year included a provision that allows mobile vendors to sign up for up to ten stops on one license.

Another tough Commerce City rule from 2007 that still holds: Mobile vendors are allowed to be at any one location for only thirty minutes. In Denver, the rule is two hours. "I don't know what the logic there was," Halsted says. "It was their best reaction to the complaints then."

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Most of the trucks operating in Commerce City are the old-style loncheras and roach coaches that cater to construction workers and dominated the business a decade ago, not the gourmet, hipster trucks now roaming Denver. And the strict rules haven't slowed the number of trucks getting licensed in Commerce City. In 2009, fourteen outdoor vendor licenses were issued; each is good for two years. So far in 2011, another nine licenses have been granted. And even though they operate under tough rules, the operators haven't complained.

"We just haven't seen a problem and the outdoor vendors we have approved haven't had an issue," Halsted says. "They have their route and they go with it."

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