Food truck owners pleased to see downtown parking restrictions relaxed

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Some food truck owners say they are pleased with the Casper City Council’s decision to loosen some restrictions on hourly parking restrictions for mobile vendors downtown and in the Old Yellowstone District.

Councilwoman Khrystyn Lutz offered an amendment during the third reading of changes to the city’s mobile vendor parking permit rules on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Her amendment allows those receiving permits to park for 24 hours. Previously parking permits for mobile vendors were not available in the mornings.

Article continues below...

Lutz’s amendment was attached to different changes to the rules. Those changes give people a formal way to request exceptions to the mobile vendor parking regulations and give council the authority to hear and decide on such exception requests.

“We were surprised and excited to see how the vote turned out,” Dave Hinton, owner of Lefty’s BBQ and Catering said on Thursday. “I almost thought they made a mistake.”

Hinton had previously told the council that the hourly restrictions were problematic for him because he has to cook his BBQ on site since he operates in an open air cooking set-up.

Only being allowed to set-up at 3 pm on weekdays and 1 pm on weekends didn’t give him the time needed to finish the slow cooking process and start serving.

Now, he will be able to.

“It will make my life substantially easier,” Hinton says.

Hinton still thinks the price of permits are a little high. They cost $25 per space, but most food vendors require multiple spaces.

“[The cost of the] permit is a little high but it is what it is,” he says.

Rob Caputa, owner of the Wyo Philly Wagon is also happy to see the hourly restrictions relaxed. But he also thinks the permit price is too high and suggests it should be a flat $25, regardless of the number of spaces the vendor will occupy.

He also still has concerns about the city relying on the 2018 International Fire Code to regulate food trucks.

Caputa has been recently renewing his annual permit. He was surprised to learn that his gas lines needed to be checked and demonstrate the ability to hold “15 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes.”

He says that this came with an unexpected cost. Caputa had to hire a plumber at $85 an hour to come perform the check and provide him a letter to show the fire department.

Caputa says that these checks will need to be performed annually. With his set-up, this came with a cost of $300, he says.

“For me, it is $300 per year,” he says. “That is a lot of extra sandwiches.”

Caputa says this is not something that is required of brick and mortar restaurants and doesn’t think the annual inspections of the gas lines are necessary.

While the lines may move around, he says that when he owned the “Prime Time” restaurant in Casper, the lines were frequently being bumped into as part of regular cleaning when moving equipment away from the walls.

He says that his gas lines generally only push three pounds of pressure in his trailer.

While it is not a concern for him since his trailer has a fire suppression system installed, he still thinks that the requirements that anyone cooking in trailers which produce “grease laden vapors” install a suppression system was too restrictive.

He also says that communication about all the rules may be a problem. Caputa says that when he learned that he couldn’t serve at a catering event at a Casper park because his gas line check hadn’t been done, it was news to him.

When he contacted the city, he said they also weren’t aware that he needed to get this done. Caputa says it took him tracking down the inspector to figure out what the issue was.

Caputa says he doesn’t think the council would pass some of these regulations on the first place if they knew some of the consequences they can have.

“The city council passes these resolutions and ordinances without any of the consequences to themselves,” he says.

While international code regulations may make sense in large cities, Caputa says that the City of Casper should recognize that the population here is small and businesses may not have the customer base to make profits large enough to keep up with all the regulations.

He suggests that the council create rules that work for Casper specifically and don’t over rely on international codes.

Nevertheless, Tuesday’s decision made him optimistic about the council’s intentions.

“Overall, I think they’re trying to clean [the rules] up,” he says.

“I really like Lutz up there, she’s a pretty smart gal.”

NOTE: A previous version of this story said that Lefty’s would be at next Tuesday’s Food for Thought Summer Market. For personal reasons, Hinton says he has decided not to serve that night.