Street vendors line the road

Street vendors are a traditional part of summer festivals in Long Beach, and now some local restaurants are asking to be allowed to sell from food trucks as part of a response to covid-related impacts to their industry.

LONG BEACH — At its July 20 meeting, the Long Beach City Council delayed a decision that would allow temporary food vendors to open up shop on the weekend in the city through the rest of the summer.

The request to allow temporary food vendors on the weekend came via a letter from Karla Jensen, owner of Mermaid Inn & RV Park, and Tiffany Turner, owner of Adrift Hospitality. Jensen clarified at last week’s meeting that the letter was not sent on behalf of the Long Beach Merchants Association, of which she is the president.

In the letter, Jensen and Turner say they are concerned “about the ability of brick and mortar restaurants to meet the current needs” of the guests staying at their hotels and lodging facilities following the Fourth of July weekend. Lodging in Long Beach is close to full occupancy, they say, but restaurants, as spelled out in Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start Plan, are limited to 75% occupancy in their restaurants due to Pacific County being in Phase 3 of reopening.

Jensen and Turner asked the city to issue conditional use permits to allow businesses within city limits to host food trucks or food service providers on their properties from Fridays at 12 p.m. through Sundays at 7 p.m., either until Pacific County enters Phase 4 or through Sept. 30.

“This is an urgent request, caused by the impact of the pandemic and is intended as a temporary solution to meet the needs of our recreation industry, and to alleviate limited capacity of our local restaurants,” the letter reads.

Carla Curtis, owner of North Beach Tavern and former LBMA president, opposed allowing temporary food vendors, saying the Fourth of July weekend was unique in how many visitors descended upon the peninsula, and that many restaurants are fighting to stay open. She said she supported a permanent policy that could be enacted once the pandemic has subsided.

“Introducing these types of food vendors, at a time when most restaurants on this peninsula are struggling to survive, seems incongruous,” Curtis said at the meeting. “There are empty tables and empty chairs on the weekends in this town. How many more will be created because of temporary food vendors?”

In its meeting documents, the city said, if approved by the councilors, food vendors would have to meet a number of conditions to be given the go-ahead, including: obtain an itinerant business license; meet design review criteria in the zone where they are set up, such as signage, trash disposal, required parking impacts and location; and be approved by the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department.

Ultimately, the city council took no action on the temporary food vendor policy at the meeting, deciding to spend more time gathering information and input on the issue and deferring any decision until a later meeting. Councilor Kevin Cline made a motion to approve the policy, but no other councilor seconded his motion.

Councilor Sue Svendsen made a motion to have the city look into hosting some type of food cart event and seeing how that goes before making any decision on a food vendor policy. The motion passed unanimously.

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