An immigrant’s dream is prompting Carlisle Borough Council to revisit its ordinance concerning food trucks.
A native of St. Lucia, Bryan Landers moved to the United States 20 years ago. He came to Carlisle in 2015 with nothing to his name, but found work and has been busy raising his family with his wife, Latoya.
“I’m just trying to live the American dream like anybody else. I could be the perfect poster child for an immigrant coming to Carlisle,” Landers said.
His dream is likely unusual to most folks.
He wants to be a food cart vendor.
It’s something he says he always wanted to do. Back on the island, he watched his mother work as a food vendor in one of the three jobs she held to support Landers and his five brothers and five sisters.
Thanks to the support of his sister, Landers’ mother was able to retire from vending before he had a chance to go to work with her.
“So I never had the opportunity. I was robbed of that,” he said with a laugh.
The couple’s goal is to be out with their hot dog cart, B&L Dogz, for a couple of hours a day, several days a week in places where they have good foot traffic, and may even be able to attract drivers who will stop when they see the bright banner or the umbrella over the cart.
“We’re really hoping to get by the courthouse,” Latoya said. “That’s where we really want to be. The traffic there is really good.”
The plan gives the couple more time with their five children and soon-to-be seven grandchildren.
Carlisle’s food truck ordinance stands in the way of the plan, which led to Landers asking the borough council to reconsider its position on food trucks.
The council is open to discussion.
“I think now is a great time to revisit what appears to be a very restrictive food truck ordinance,” Councilman Sean Crampsie said. “I think the gentleman who spoke at our last meeting was a perfect example of how hard it is for a food truck to operate in the borough.”
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Food vendors are only permitted to serve walk-up customers and may not provide customer seating. They have to provide for trash collection, and are not allowed to broadcast loud music or advertisements.
The ordinance also requires food vendors to obtain a yearly permit that includes a proof of insurance with minimum liability coverage of $1 million.
When Landers appeared before the council recently, council members reminded him that he can run his food cart on private property in the borough with the permission of the property owner.
So far, the only location from which Landers operates his cart in the borough is at High and Pitt streets near Alibi’s from 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturdays.
He also has received permission to set up at two locations in North Middleton Township. He’s at the corner of the Harrisburg Pike and Post Road from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays, and in front of Dolly’s Laundromat on North Hanover Street on Fridays and Saturdays at lunchtime.
Landers said he has looked into the possibility of setting up near the warehouses at the western end of the borough, where he would be permitted by the ordinance, but there are challenges. Ritner Highway has about 270 cars that drive past the spot he scouted during the time frame he would operate, but he’s unsure of how many would actually pull over and stop.
Having worked at a warehouse, he knows that parking at the entrance to the parking lot would probably mean workers getting into cars to drive out to the entrances that are far from the buildings in which they work.
Carlisle Mayor Tim Scott said the ordinance allowing food trucks in the industrial zone was viewed by members of the council as a pilot program that would be reevaluated. Five years later, that time has come, he said.
“I support the idea of opening up the discussion again and seeing where we can improve and make it better and more inclusive,” Scott said.
Food trucks offer “an innovative way” for entrepreneurs who may not have access to the capital needed to start and operate a conventional restaurant to create a viable business, Scott said.
“I look forward to starting a dialogue again with all stakeholders to make it work for everyone,” Scott said.
Crampsie said he would like to see that dialogue start with informational sessions with local businesses to get their feedback, saying that he understands the concerns of unfair competitive advantages and wouldn’t want to see the downtown food scene affected by the presence of food trucks.
“I think there may be some innovative ways to strike a balance where maybe we host food truck days outside of the downtown or run a pilot program that allows us to see what the impacts and feedback would be,” he said.