When we last saw a hustling and bustling Gulfport, it would have been at one of the last Tuesday Morning Fresh Markets in February.
The sidewalks were crowded, shoulders were bumping. You can still feel the sneeze of a toddler on your bare ankle.
The Tuesday Morning Fresh Market had a weekly host of eclectic vendors, especially food vendors for such goodies like lobster rolls, Thai food and desserts galore. Gulfport Springfest is another event that welcomes food vendors. And of course, there’re holiday and sporting events.
Organized events are generally the only time we see food trucks in Gulfport. However, some mobile food vendors want to be seen more than once in a while.
In many cities across the world, street food is common.
As of July 1, that may become more possible in Florida.
On July 21, Gulfport Council discussed adopting and adapting Florida’s HB 1193, Deregulation of Professions and Occupations, and the possibility of allowing MFVs to operate regularly within city limits – not just on special occasions.
The new Florida statute says that cities must allow food trucks without additional licensure, registrations, permits or fees. However, the city can control the location and hours of operation for vendors. It looks like the Gulfport may do just that.
Gulfport City Ordinance No. 2020-08 reviews Florida’s newest statute with a few adjustments – but that doesn’t mean Gulfport’s streets are now fair game for any and all MFV.
“It was agreed on by all councilmembers that mobile food vendors, who are selling to the general public, will not be allowed to operate on public property, only on properly zoned private property,” said City Manager Jim O’Reilly at the July 21 meeting.
At the meeting, Barbara Banno approached the podium on behalf of the Gulfport Merchants Chamber and her restaurant, Stella’s. Banno reported that 85 percent of the GMC’s members support MFVs, but that they want the city to have more control over where vendors would be allowed to set up.
The GMC asked council to consider a few restrictions before coming to a vote:
No vending within 50 feet from a restaurant, unless authorized by the restaurant owner.
No vending within 500 feet of a community event unless authorized by the promoter.
MFV pay a fee to the city – daily, weekly, monthly, and annually available.
As for vending within 50 feet of a restaurant, O’Reilly said that should be discussed on a case-by-case basis. Some restaurants may be within 50 feet of private property with commercial use zoning, which would allow for an MFV to operate.
The stipulations will not apply to special events. If the city has an event, say the Tuesday Morning Fresh Market, vendors would have to specifically apply to be a vendor for that event.
How will MFVs apply for permission to vend within Gulfport city limits? That’s not clear yet. Mayor Henderson maintained that city staff would follow after more research.
Council will vote on the ordinance at their meeting Tuesday, August 19.