Orange Cove test drives mobile food vendor policy

Orange Cove City Council green lights pilot program that allows food trucks to operate by the community center for three evenings every week

Welcome to Orange Cove sign as seen from the south sidewalk along Park Blvd. (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published June 15, 2024  • 
9:00 am

ORANGE COVE – Mobile food vendors will now be able to roll into the city of Orange Cove three days a week thanks to a new pilot program initiated by city staff. 

The Orange Cove City Council approved the new pilot policy at its meeting on June 12 despite some concerns from Mayor Diana Guerra Silva about the impact the policy could have on established businesses. Building and Planning Director Shun Patlan said city staff created this pilot policy in response to inquiries from multiple food vendors interested in selling their products in Orange Cove. 

“I think it’s a good idea, because for one, we don’t have anything really built here, and we’re not building any restaurants any sooner, and everybody everywhere is struggling, it’s not just one person, it’s everyone,” Councilmember Maria Vacio said. “Sometimes we have to go out of our way just to go and grab something, a bite to eat, somewhere else.”

Patlan said the pilot program will allow vendors to set up three days per week in the parking lot east of the soccer field by the Victor P. Lopez Community Center; this is an ideal location because it is paved, well-lit, fenced in and has parking space. Vendors will be able to sell food from 6 to 11 p.m. on Thursdays and from 6 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. 

The program will run through the end of October, at which point city staff will come back to the council to evaluate if it is something they would like to continue.

Only food vendors that sell out of self-contained vehicles will be allowed to participate, meaning that vendors selling non-food items or vendors selling outside of a food truck setting will not be accepted. Vendors who wish to participate must have an Orange Cove business license, pay a $75 “season fee” and be permitted to handle and sell food with the Fresno County Department of Public Health. 

Currently, the Orange Cove Municipal Code only allows for “confectionary wagons,” like ice cream trucks, to operate within the city in the summertime and along a select few streets. Patlan said that the city wanted to set up this policy so vendors can sell hot food in a way where they are concentrated in one area and not all over downtown, on people’s property or in front of other businesses.

Guerra Silva said she was concerned about whether the program would be fair to established businesses in Orange Cove that contribute to city sales tax. City staff clarified that the businesses don’t directly pay sales tax, customers do, and then businesses are required to report their sales to Fresno County to ensure that the county and Orange Cove receive the tax revenue. 

Although the city itself is not responsible for enforcing whether or not a business reports its sales to the county, Patlan said they will add in a requirement for vendors to provide the city with a copy of their county seller’s permit, which shows that they are set up to report their sales to the county. 

“The way I look at it, I want to protect our established businesses, period,” Guerra Silva said. “We’ve had trouble with that, … and to me, I’m not for it, at all, because I want to protect the businesses that we have here in town already.”

Members of the city council who were receptive to the idea said restaurant options within the city are very limited, especially in the evenings. Unless someone wants pizza, they have to cook food at home or go to another city to get something to eat, and many people may not be able to drive or leave Orange Cove.

City Manager Daniel Parra said staff specifically crafted the pilot program to allow vendors to start selling at 6 p.m. because that is when many other restaurants close. 

“People, they work out of town, they come in late, they want a bite to eat and by the time they get home, it’s closed already,” Mayor pro tem Gilbert Garcia said. “I think it would be a good idea. It’s a pilot program, nobody said it’s said in stone, that it’s gonna be there forever.”

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter