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Newport City Council moves to clarify limits on food and other vendors on the Bayfront


Newport Bayfront

A funny thing happened on the Bayfront when fish processing operations expanded. Those processors are using more water and they’ve hired more workers. More workers mean more people eating lunch. Many of those workers prefer to eat a more native form of their favorite food. Enter Latin American food wagons. The wagons are permitted under city codes. But one provision has tripped them up. They’re staying longer in one location longer than the city code limit of 15 minutes.

A Latin American mobile vendor operator said he serves over fifty workers their lunch and so having to move every 15 minutes is impractical. He’s got cookers going and food being prepared. And his customers only have so much time for lunch.

Of course that might play into the reasoning of a number of Bayfront businesses that contend these mobile food vendors are taking business away from them and that because the vendors park partially on the sidewalk and block sight distances on the street, they’re inherently dangerous for pedestrians, especially children.

But again, these vendors are legal in Newport. And if you think about it, do you really want a crowd (or even ONE) fish-drenched, HARD WORKING worker to bring his aromatic environment with him (or her) into your restaurant during the lunch hour?

Now, now, it’s a fair question!

Newport City Councilors wrestled with the issue for the better part of a half-hour Monday night and decided that the city’s current codes on street vendors needs an update. How much of one is up for debate. So they referred the entire matter to the city planning commission who will begin holding meetings on it sometime after the summer largely because they’ve already got a full plate of other projects that the council has assigned them.

In the meantime, the council, looking straight at Police Chief Mark Miranda, said they would hope that in the interim the city will “accommodate” street vendors with the knowledge that the current vendor codes will likely change in the near future. Chief Miranda had said earlier that his officers have always had a hard time enforcing the current codes because officers are constantly diverted to 9-1-1 calls preventing them from getting a chance to run a clock on how long vendors actually sit in one spot.

In sending the issue to the planning commission, councilors said they would like them to examine time limits, specific location restrictions and provisions for vendor wagons parking on private property.

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