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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesMANDATE FOR MOBILE VENDORS: MOVE IT, DAILY

MANDATE FOR MOBILE VENDORS: MOVE IT, DAILY

Dozens of St. John vendors listened attentively Tuesday evening as Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik told them what will be expected of them in the near future, based on a clear premise: If it's mobile, it's got to move.
Under the rules being formulated by Rutnik and a multi-agency task force he heads, food sellers who are licensed as mobile vendors will have a choice: Pack it up and haul it away every night, or upgrade their operation to a restaurant and get the appropriate license.
The mandate is among the rules being laid down for mobile vendors territorywide. But even as he cited the requirements in Cruz Bay, Rutnik acknowledged that at least one of the proposed rules would probably change. The task force has called for a distance of at least 500 feet between a mobile food vendor and a restaurant. However, the commissioner said, "This would probably be impossible to enforce" in the congested confines of Cruz Bay and parts of St. Thomas.
The regulations are directed toward food sellers operating from booths, converted vans, stands and tables at roadsides, in parks and in some cases from privately owned property. Cruz Bay has more than half a dozen mobile vendors, some with elaborate surroundings and others with simple structures that have long been part of the town's landscape. At least a half-dozen more are dotted along Centerline Road from Gifft Hill to the East End. In recent months, government officials have been trying to take action against some mobile vendors with varying degrees of success.
Give Away By the Sea, a stand that had been located at the gate of the St. John administrator's office near the Cruz Bay taxi stand, was removed.
Patrick Moorhead's vendor license was pulled, although he had paid all the required fees and had gone through all the required inspections. At issue was the location of the operation — on the owner's private property at Moorhead Point.
Rutnik said Moorhead's business was in a residential area not zoned for commercial use. Moorhead's property is next door to the water treatment plant operated by the Water and Power Authority and he said he had been approached by WAPA about buying the land for their use. "So the government could take a piece of my property right from under my door and make it a business area?" he asked.
Arthur Hercules of Hercules' Pate Delight said he is ready to make the switch from mobile vendor to restaurant, complete with all the required amenities — power, plumbing, toilet facilities and hot water. Although his kitchen and serving area operate from a converted van, Hercules has built a wooden shed around it and added a patio-style dining area.
Acknowledging that his business is "kind of permanently there for a while," Hercules said, "I just have to comply and apply for a restaurant license."
Sheila Powell of Sheila's Pot, however, said she would rather fight than switch and has hired a lawyer to challenge the mobile vendor regulation. Powell carries her pots and pans of native dishes to her small stand in Cruz Bay Park to serve the public six days a week. The stand has no seating, no plumbing and no electricity.
Powell said what bothers her the most about the new regulations is that they are to apply only to businesses begun since 1972. "I've been there for 20 years, and I'm not going to let anybody run me out of there," she said. "It's going to be a tough fight, but I'm going to stick with it, and I ain't giving up."
Rutnik said he didn't know how many mobile food vendors are licensed to operate on St. John, since the their records are lumped together with those for vendors on St. Thomas.
He said he thinks some vendors are apprehensive because they fear that complying with the new regulations will be expensive.
The compliance task force is made up of representatives of the Police; Fire Services; Planning and Natural Resources; Housing, Parks and Recreation; and Licensing and Consumer Affairs Departments and the Port Authority. Task force inspectors are expected to check vendors for compliance next month.

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Dozens of St. John vendors listened attentively Tuesday evening as Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik told them what will be expected of them in the near future, based on a clear premise: If it's mobile, it's got to move.
Under the rules being formulated by Rutnik and a multi-agency task force he heads, food sellers who are licensed as mobile vendors will have a choice: Pack it up and haul it away every night, or upgrade their operation to a restaurant and get the appropriate license.
The mandate is among the rules being laid down for mobile vendors territorywide. But even as he cited the requirements in Cruz Bay, Rutnik acknowledged that at least one of the proposed rules would probably change. The task force has called for a distance of at least 500 feet between a mobile food vendor and a restaurant. However, the commissioner said, "This would probably be impossible to enforce" in the congested confines of Cruz Bay and parts of St. Thomas.
The regulations are directed toward food sellers operating from booths, converted vans, stands and tables at roadsides, in parks and in some cases from privately owned property. Cruz Bay has more than half a dozen mobile vendors, some with elaborate surroundings and others with simple structures that have long been part of the town's landscape. At least a half-dozen more are dotted along Centerline Road from Gifft Hill to the East End. In recent months, government officials have been trying to take action against some mobile vendors with varying degrees of success.
Give Away By the Sea, a stand that had been located at the gate of the St. John administrator's office near the Cruz Bay taxi stand, was removed.
Patrick Moorhead's vendor license was pulled, although he had paid all the required fees and had gone through all the required inspections. At issue was the location of the operation -- on the owner's private property at Moorhead Point.
Rutnik said Moorhead's business was in a residential area not zoned for commercial use. Moorhead's property is next door to the water treatment plant operated by the Water and Power Authority and he said he had been approached by WAPA about buying the land for their use. "So the government could take a piece of my property right from under my door and make it a business area?" he asked.
Arthur Hercules of Hercules' Pate Delight said he is ready to make the switch from mobile vendor to restaurant, complete with all the required amenities -- power, plumbing, toilet facilities and hot water. Although his kitchen and serving area operate from a converted van, Hercules has built a wooden shed around it and added a patio-style dining area.
Acknowledging that his business is "kind of permanently there for a while," Hercules said, "I just have to comply and apply for a restaurant license."
Sheila Powell of Sheila's Pot, however, said she would rather fight than switch and has hired a lawyer to challenge the mobile vendor regulation. Powell carries her pots and pans of native dishes to her small stand in Cruz Bay Park to serve the public six days a week. The stand has no seating, no plumbing and no electricity.
Powell said what bothers her the most about the new regulations is that they are to apply only to businesses begun since 1972. "I've been there for 20 years, and I'm not going to let anybody run me out of there," she said. "It's going to be a tough fight, but I'm going to stick with it, and I ain't giving up."
Rutnik said he didn't know how many mobile food vendors are licensed to operate on St. John, since the their records are lumped together with those for vendors on St. Thomas.
He said he thinks some vendors are apprehensive because they fear that complying with the new regulations will be expensive.
The compliance task force is made up of representatives of the Police; Fire Services; Planning and Natural Resources; Housing, Parks and Recreation; and Licensing and Consumer Affairs Departments and the Port Authority. Task force inspectors are expected to check vendors for compliance next month.