- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

MONROE, La. (AP) - The much-debated mobile food vendor ordinance is back on the Monroe City Council’s agenda Tuesday night, but most of the controversial language has been stripped from its earlier version.

The News-Star reports (http://tnsne.ws/V4YuyO ) the ordinance was designed to allow for and regulate mobile food vendors within the city of Monroe.

Council Vice Chairman Ray Armstrong, District 1, authored the ordinance but pulled it before the final adoption vote a month ago over concerns from vendors and restaurateurs.

Mobile vendors worried about a lack of a level playing field because of restrictions to advertising and proximity to brick-and-mortar restaurants. Both restrictions have been removed from the new version of the ordinance.

“I addressed all of the issues that came up,” Armstrong said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good ordinance.”

A new provision restricts mobile food vendors from operating within 300 feet of the outermost boundary of any school or location where a not-for-profit school event sponsored by a school is being held.

Councilwoman Gretchen Ezernack, District 2, had raised concerns the vendors might take away from concession stand revenue, which usually benefits an organization associated with the school.

“That was the only thing I was concerned about because so for so many of those organizations, that’s their only source of revenue,” Ezernack said. “I could see that as a concern maybe not today or tomorrow, but if these get popular, down the road it could be a problem.”

Some restrictions from the previous version of the ordinance remained. Tables and chairs are still prohibited, as are sound amplification machines. Vendors still have to provide trash cans.

Armstrong said he’s worked with the Louisiana Restaurant Association and reached out to concerned local restaurant owners. He said he believes this version should be more satisfactory to most people.

He said many mobile food vendors already have vehicles and trailers in anticipation of the ordinance passing.

“We need to be willing to work together. We need to make sure Monroe stays ahead of the curve,” Armstrong said.

Because the ordinance had so many substantial changes, the council must vote to reintroduce it Tuesday. If it passes, the council will vote in July on final adoption.

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Information from: The News-Star, http://www.thenewsstar.com

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