Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Beach strand vendor permits could soon drop in-town business requirements following food truck lawsuit

Current regulations are similar to the now overturned food truck regulations that required trucks to have a business in the town before being permitted.

Rules for vendors at Carolina Beach could be changing soon to streamline the permitting process and make things equal across the board (Port City Daily/Courtesy Town of Carolina Beach)
Rules for vendors at Carolina Beach could be changing soon to streamline the permitting process and make things equal across the board (Port City Daily/Courtesy Town of Carolina Beach)

CAROLINA BEACH — In 2018 several food truck owners, in partnership with a national law firm, challenged the constitutionality of a town ordinance that required anyone who wanted to operate in Carolina Beach to own a brick and mortar business for at least one year in town limits.

The food truck owners were victorious in their pursuit for a free market in Carolina Beach and now it appears the town is considering amending another part of its ordinances related to vendors operating on the beach and other itinerant merchants.

In what appears to be a complete overhaul of Chapter 14 and Chapter 28 of town ordinances, restrictions similar to what brought about the food truck lawsuit would be removed for other vendors as well.

According to Assistant Director of Planning and Development Jeremy Hardison the proposed changes are an attempt to follow suit with the changes made to the food truck ordinance and remove the restrictions that caused the orginal controversy.

Current allowances and permits include vendors to Freeman Park for a total of six 4×4 vehicles and two pushcarts, provided operators are a property owner or have a business in town. Five pushcarts are allowed on the beach strand, but operators must have a business in the town’s Central Business District. Three ocean street-end stationary cart permits are open to anyone, and an unlimited number of itinerant merchant permits provided the business operates a primary location in town.

Rules for vendors at Carolina Beach could be changing soon to streamline the permitting process and make things equal across the board (Port City Daily/Courtesy Town of Carolina Beach)
Vendors can be found on Carolina Beach and in Freeman Park throughout the summer months (Port City Daily/Courtesy Carolina Beach)

Beach vendors, itinerant merchants, and other similar merchants will have new permitting requirements that would loosen some of the current restrictions including the requirement that vendors must own a business in the town limits.

But the changes would also eliminate some of the business opportunities in town as well.

Proposed changes

Proposed changes include:

  • Remove the condition that you are required to have a business in the town or to be a resident
  • Keep the number of Freeman Park vehicle vendors to six
  • Combine the allowable number of pushcarts for Freeman Park and municipal beach strand to a total of six
  • Eliminate the three street-end allowances
  • Eliminate Itinerant Merchant allowances
  • Eliminate distance requirement from the pier

Current town code allows for three stationary carts to operate on ocean street ends (Sandpiper, Ocean, Alabama), but if approved the new ordinance would remove these vendors altogether.

According to the town’s vendor list, there are two vendors who would be affected by this change: Pelican’s Snowballs on Alabama Avenue, and Ahnhee Oh, which operates on Ocean Boulevard. These permits are available to anyone regardless if they have a business in town.

Since the proposed changes would remove the requirement for beach strand vendors, Hardison said if the street end vendors wanted to apply for a permit to operate a pushcart, they now could.

Carolina Beach is unique in the fact that it does allow vendors to operate as it does, Hardison said. There are plenty of beach towns that do not permit vendors and the ordinance is all about finding a balance between over-commercialization and providing services to visitors as a convenience.

Vending permit fees are also going to go up if the changes are approved — from $100 to $200 annually for all types of vendors.


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