Rumor: The City of San Marcos has enacted new regulations for Mobile Food Vendors that caused the Hitch to close.
Fact: Beginning in January of 2017 the Health Department began working with mobile food vendors to ensure they were able to be mobile food vendors as intended by the state laws. This actually allowed for mobile food vendors to move from location to location without having to obtain any additional permits. This means it is actually easier for mobile food vendors to pick locations that are more conducive to their particular business model instead of confining them to only a few designated sites with additional permit requirements.
The City Health Department understood that the units designated as "portables" would not be able to fully comply with the current state law and worked out a solution that allowed for these units to remain as "portables". In fact there are still at least 6 "portables" in operation at this time. Since March of 2017 many of the "portables" elected to undergo the review and inspection process to become mobile food vendors in order to have that ability to move around and several of them have left the designated spots where they were previously confined. The Health Department also implemented a policy that for the 2017 permit renewal period, no establishments would be shut down just on the basis of being a "portable". There were a set of guidelines established to inspect for any critical health hazard issues. The guidelines are available on the city website at: http://www.sanmarcostx.gov/574/6914/Food-Protection. As a result of the inspections so far there were a few corrections that had to be made at some of the units, including installing food grade hoses to the water supply. No units were shut down or failed.
In 2015 Texas passed a new updated set of Texas Food Establishment Rules which are more explicit about the requirements of mobile food vendors. These rules are already in effect and are the standards required by state law. These rules could place some additional requirements on all health permit holders, not just mobile food vendors. As a result, the City Health Department has worked with all permit holders during the 2017 permit renewal to notify the permit holders of how the 2015 rules may impact them. The 2015 rules will be the standard for new food permits issued in 2018 and for the 2018 renewal process.
The City Health Department will be hosting several stakeholder meeting with all permit holders over the next few months to update them on the differences between the 2006 and 2015 rules. It should be noted that these are not optional rules, these are state law. The City Health Department will be mailing out notifications to all permit holders once the dates and locations are determined. In addition these meeting notices will be published in the newspaper, on social media, and posted on the city web site.
The City Health Department is also working with the City permit center to upgrade the permit process so that all permits will be available to be processed online for the 2018 renewal process. This is an ongoing effort to streamline the processes and ensure permit holder have the ability to complete applications when it is convenient for them, not just during weekday normal business hours.
All mobile food vendors that applied for a health permit this year have successfully completed their process and have a permit except one. That individual did not want to comply with having a commercial kitchen contract and wanted to produce his food from his house, which is a violation of the state health food rules. The last time I spoke with him, he indicated that he had an agreement with a local business owner to utilize the kitchen at the business to produce his food. However, this individual has not submitted any additional paperwork or proceeded with the process.
During the last 6 months, Code Compliance staff has not shut down or issued citations to any mobile food vendors or restaurants in the downtown area. Though numerous food vendors and downtown restaurants have been inspected, none had significant issues to warrant suspension or closing.
One portable food vendor is currently under investigation in response to 4 complaints regarding food borne illness and complaints of a roach infestation. Staff is working with the owner to complete an inspection and, pending the outcome of the investigation, this portable is subject to being closed.
Currently, we have more mobile food vendors working in San Marcos than we did in March of 2017. In March we had approximately 23 and now we have approximately 33 and one pending for a total of 34 active mobile food vendors.
Below is a list of all active mobile food vendor permits in San Marcos. A recent blog provided a list of food vendors that were reported to have shut down or been denied permits by the City Health Department since March 2017. A list of those vendors is also supplied below with the date their last active permit expired.