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Cupcake War: Food Truck Bans Frost Vendor

Long-standing ordinances in Eureka and other municipalities that ban peddling mean the mobile cupcake van from Chesterfield bakery Sarah's Cake Stop's is not an allowed activity. This week, the shop's owners elicited empathy from customers on Facebook.

cupcakemobile won’t be stopping in Eureka again unless city guidelines get modified or a variance is granted.

Eureka officials were the latest to remind Chesterfield-based Sarah's food truck operators they cannot operate within city limits, due to an existing ordinance that prevents what historically is considered "peddling activity."

This issue first cropped up Tuesday on Sarah's Cake Stop's Facebook page, and Patch started researching and following the matter. Sarah's owners, customers and Eureka city officials since have interacted or commented on the topic several times.

“We recently observed a [Sarah's Cake Stop] truck parked in town and informed the company that the city does not have a way of handling peddler activity,” said Eureka City Administrator Craig Sabo, who added that the city did not currently have the means to consider the food truck for a permit.

ordinance reads as follows:

Section 12-1. PEDDLERS.

(a) A peddler shall include any person who shall deal in the sale of goods, wares, merchandise or services by outcry or by going about from place to place, house to house, door to door, on foot or by conveyance, or by stopping or standing in any street, alley or place to offer or sell such goods, wares, merchandise or services.

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the business of a peddler within the City, except as follows:

(1) Any farmer or producer of agricultural and horticultural products for the sale of produce raised by said farmer when sold from a vehicle or by the employees of such producer.

(2) A recognized Eureka-based civic, fraternal, charitable and religious organization.

(c) Those individuals or entities authorized to engage in peddler activity may operate a temporary sign of up to thirty-two (32) square feet in size, subject to temporary signage provisions contained in Chapter 19A of the Municipal Code. (Ord. No. 616 §1; Ord. No. 1598 §1, 3-5-02; Ord. No. 1828 §§1)2, 4-19-05; Ord. No. 2135 §1, 9-7-10)

Sabo also said one of the shop's co-owners visited Eureka City Hall a few weeks ago to inquire about distributing cupcakes in a mobile manner, and was informed that it was not allowed. "They appeared to be doing their due diligence, yet they came back to Eureka after being informed the city's ordinances did not authorize this type of activity," he said.

Sabo said Eureka does not receive tax revenue from food truck sales, but Jeff Pupillo, co-owner of the bakery and member of the St. Louis Food Truck Association, said that is untrue.

“We pay sales tax,” Pupillo said. “They don’t know what they are talking about. If they actually check the records for the last year, they would have to pick a different argument.”

The cake shop's tax report for August 2011 — which accompanies this article — lists Eureka, an indication that Pupillo said they've previously paid taxes to the city, although the shop paid no taxes to Eureka or several other cities listed on the form that month. According to this Missouri Department of Revenue sales tax return form, the only entities for which it appears there are gross receipts includes St. Louis County, Chesterfield, Ellisville, Kirkwood, St. Louis, University City and Valley Park.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pupillo announced the development with Eureka on the bakery’s Facebook page, saying any pre-orders by Eureka residents would be canceled.

“The City must not need the tax revenue,” he wrote, sarcastically.

Eureka is not alone when it comes to bans on mobile businesses. Clayton, Webster Groves and St. Charles all deny or make permitting difficult for food trucks, Pupillo said.

“There are pocket cities that don’t see the value of the food truck, so we keep battling them,” Pupillo said.

The sales tax revenue form lists the company's city as Valley Park, however. Sabo said his understanding of Missouri tax laws are that any potential sales tax revenue would be going to the city from which a business operates as its headquarters' point-of-sale.

On Facebook, residents summed up their feelings in one word: Boo.

“Boo!” Kandi Kerger Geregory, of Eureka, commented under Pupillo’s post. “I missed you at Clarkson Eye Care today. This makes me sooooooooo sad!”

Eureka resident Jessica Wallach Nitsch said she called Eureka City Hall and suggested the cake shop file an application to have the rules changed to allow food trucks.

Sarah’s Cake Stop was , and Pupillo said negotiating with cities is part of trying to “break ground so all the other food trucks can come in.”

Sabo told Patch late Wednesday evening that he had spoken by phone to Pupillo during the day Wednesday, and had explained the process for requesting special use permits, which coincidently had been repealed previously by the board of aldermen for peddling activity.

"I explained to them that they could propose an amendment to the code to provide for their type of business activity, but I have no idea what the board would say. My guess is that any suggested amendments would have to be extremely narrowly focused," said Sabo.

George Sackett November 10, 2011 at 03:55 PM
From the point of view of Sarah's, it seems silly to fight to get into an area where the local officials are being so obtuse. There are so many places where the citizens have welcomed Sarah's, why bother. Pupillo and all the folks associated with the business have been most friendly and professional. I wish them continued success.

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