Pushing too hard

When selling tamales outside bars late at night is outlawed, only outlaws will sell tamales outside bars late at night.

That’s why we did a double-take when we ran across an item “banning cart vendors” on the Sacramento City Council’s to-do list. Always concerned that the man might be trying to shut down small business people—especially the providers of such tasty and important treats—we called Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell for an explanation.

“We’re not trying to ban them. But they need to be regulated,” Pannell was quick to explain.

In fact, technically, it’s already illegal to sell food outdoors in Sacramento outside of the central business district. Even there, you need a permit.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t dozens of entrepreneurs pushing carts full of helados around wherever kids are gathered and carrying buckets of roses into restaurants on Valentine’s Day. Problem is the city can’t control where people vend, when they vend or what they vend.

“We get constant complaints about them,” Pannell explained. In particular, she said cart jockeys like to set up outside churches and sell their wares after services, often blocking sidewalks and causing traffic jams.

“Sometimes these guys will set up right across from a school, and you’ll have kids running across the street. It’s a safety issue,” threw in Bob Rose, Sacramento’s code-enforcement manager.

But vendors rarely are cited, said Rose, and complaints usually are handled on a case-by-case basis. The issue will come to the council later this summer, when city leaders try to untangle an ordinance regulating other mobile-food vendors such as catering trucks.

“It’s a tough issue. Some of these guys are just trying to make a living,” said Rose. “We want to find a way for them to do that legally.”