City official threatens to shut down Souper Freak and Iced Gems for improper permits
Irene Smith of Souper Freak just got majorly moved along.
Smith said she was shut down by city official Alvin O. Gillard (director of the Baltimore Community Relations Commission), who, Smith said, told her that he had been dispatched to shut down all of the city's food trucks in the aftermath of Jill Rosen's article yesterday about the fits and starts of Baltimore's food trucks.
This is all according to Smith.
More to come.
UPDATE/12:23 p.m.: Laura Vozzella just went down to talk to Irene Smith
Smith told her that she had a line of seven people when Alvin O. Gillard told her he was shutting her down. He presented a card that identified him as director of the Community Relations Commission and told her he was also head of the city’s street vendor’s board, Smith said.
(According to Smith, Gillard told her that she needed to have an on-street vendors license. Smith says she produced for Gillard her mobile vendor's license (far more expensive to procure than an on-street vendor's license) or risk a $50 fine.
He told her she would need to get on the agenda for the board, which meets every other month. The next meeting is June 3, but he said the agenda was very busy and she might have to wait until the August meeting.
He told her, “I answer to the mayor.”
Smith said she asked what would happen if she stayed open. The section of the code he presented her with listed a $50 fine. Gillard, Smith said, told her she would be fined the first time, but he’d send officers if she continued to stay open and it would be up to their discretion if they arrested her.
She decided to risk it and stayed put.
“I’ve got $600 worth of food,” Smith told Vozzella.
Tony Richardson, co-owner of the Iced Gems food truck, told me that a city official who identified himself as Alvin O. Gillard this morning approached the cupcake truck, which Richardson's daughter was operating. The interaction that Richardson described matches up with Smith's account, including the official's unwillingness to patiently explain his position or to listen to the vendor's defense.
Gillard oversees the city's Vendor Licensing Board. It's not clear whether this is related to his directorship of the Baltimore Community Relations Commission, but it prompted Richardson to say, "he's the one who needs a lesson in community relations."
UPDATE/2:30 p.m. -- City supports food trucks
I just spoke with Alvin O. Gillard.
The City, he assured me, absolutely supports street vendors and food trucks in particular. But the City also has a responsibility to make sure all of the vendors are properly regulated and also to ensure that existing retail operations are not unfairly affected by their presence. Fair enough.
Gillard told me that that the Mayor has asked the Street Vendor Board, in the aftermath of today's mis-undertandings, to conduct outreach to Baltimore food trucks and to work with Health and Housing to assist Baltimore's them in coming under regulatory compliance. There will be an indeterminate grace period while this outreach is being conducted.