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A year ago in the heat of the summer, Fabian Sanchez began selling tacos from a pushcart on the sidewalk in front of his store, Guerrero Market.

But his new business venture lasted just three weeks before a disgruntled person turned him in to the city, according to his attorney, Mike Rierden.

Sidewalk vendors are allowed to operate only in the downtown business district, which ends several blocks from Guerrero Market, near 11th and G streets

So Sanchez packed up his cart and went to see his attorney.

More than a year later the Lincoln City Council is considering an ordinance change that will let Sanchez sell tacos once again on his sidewalk.

A public hearing on the issue will be held Monday, with a vote likely next week, on an expansion of the business areas where sidewalk vendors can operate.

The change specifically will allow Sanchez to resume selling tacos, but there is a broader purpose.

Expanding the area for sidewalk vendors furthers urban development goals, according to David Landis, Urban Development director for the city.

"You want a street that people walk on. You want pedestrian activity. People interacting, neighbors mingling," he said.

"It's good for the interconnectivity of the neighborhood."

The change will allow sidewalk vendors in business areas (B3 zones) beyond downtown, places like University Place and shopping malls, said Hallie Salem, with Urban Development.

Sidewalk vending is not big business in Lincoln. But it has grown in the past four years, according to Teresa Meier, deputy city clerk.

The city this year has seven licensees, with 14 vendor and nine cart permits.

Most sidewalk vendors sell hot dogs. One sells burritos and one tacos.

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A few cater to the downtown lunch crowd, but most set up at night, selling to the bar crowd, she said.

There's a distinction between sidewalk vendors, operating on public sidewalks, and people who set up on private property, like parking lots.

Anyone who sells food on a regular basis needs a food handler permit ($20 for two years); and the carts need to have a food establishment permit ($514 for the initial inspection, $380 annually after that), according to Justin Daniel, with the Lancaster county-Lincoln Health Department.

But folks who sell from a public sidewalk also need a city sidewalk vendor permit ($50 per vendor and $50 per cart).

And there are plenty of rules in the five-page ordinance that govern sidewalk vendors, including:

  • From a push cart you can peddle only flowers, balloons or food.
  • You can't let your customers line up in the street.
  • You can't block a fire hydrant.
  • You can't advertise anything except the product and vendor name on the pushcart.
  • You have to have an attached or accessible trash container.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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