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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Berkeley Orders Mobile Street-Food Vendor Cupkates to Cease Operating

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 10:36 AM

click to enlarge Cupkates suspects Berkeley of changing the rules for selling in commercial zones. - CUPKATES
  • Cupkates
  • Cupkates suspects Berkeley of changing the rules for selling in commercial zones.
UPDATE: Cyrus Farivar of the California Taco Trucks blog got a comment from chief of staff to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who cited the specific ordinance Cupkates violated. Read Farivar's post here.

When Kate McEachern decided to become a mobile street-food vendor in the city of Berkeley, she was determined to do it right. Write a business plan, get all the necessary licenses and permits. She even bought an old taco truck and spent the money to have it customized. McEachern says she submitted a route map to the city, and was instructed by a code enforcement officer she'd be allowed to sell from metered parking spaces.

And while that's exactly how McEachern has been selling her Cupkates cupcakes since August, it all came to a screeching halt Friday, when McEachern says the same code enforcement officer told her she was violating the law. By e-mail, McEachern told us the officer said that "according to a city municipal code‹it is illegal to vend from a metered parking space and that I was to shut down immediately or be issued a $500 citation. I showed him my permits and documentation and referenced our earlier conversation, but he insisted I close."

McEachern said she got conflicting information from two Berkeley city departments Monday: one told her her permit is still valid, the other confirmed that she was, indeed, in violation of the municipal code. Yesterday, the Cupkates vendor was hoping a deputy city manager would meet with her, but that didn't happen, and McEachern said she was escorted out of City Hall by police officers.

This morning, SFoodie spoke with deputy manager Christine Daniel, who said she was still looking into the matter. She said McEachern didn't have an appointment to meet with her yesterday, and was asked to leave at 5 p.m. when City Hall closed. She said she wasn't present when McEachern left the building. Daniel also said she was unaware of any other mobile food vendors currently operating in Berkeley who park at metered spaces in commercial zones. Berkeley has 28 licensed street-food vendors, 15 of which are actually mobile.

For her part, McEachern said, "I stressed to the city that I quit my job and invested my life savings building a business that the City of Berkeley permitted and endorsed just three months ago. Every day I remain closed, waiting for the city to sort out internal miscommunications, I lose a tremendous amount of income." Late last night, McEachern tweeted that, despite the order to suspend selling, she'd continue to follow her normal route today, which includes parking in front of Fantasy Studios in West Berkeley, and at the corner of Ninth Street and Dwight.

McEachern said she was also asking supporters to phone the Berkeley Mayor's office to voice complaints.

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