Clark County Government Center (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)
Clark County commissioners Tuesday criticized messaging from the Nevada legislature for a bill meant to reduce regulatory burdens for street food vendors seeking permits, which commissioners say created a lack of clarity about what street food vendors can and can’t do.
“I think the messaging from some of the legislature was we’re open for business. We’re not open for business, yet,” Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones said Tuesday during a board meeting. “We need to make sure that’s clear, so we don’t have unfortunate incidents in our own neighborhoods.”
Jones was referring to an incident last week in which a street vendor was arrested in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign for operating without a business license, and is now facing pending criminal charges and deportation.
The food vendor, 37-year-old Jose Carlos Hernandez-Perez, was detained by ICE officers on Aug. 8 after being released from the Clark County Detention Center and is now being held at Nye County Detention Center, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
“Obviously there was an unfortunate incident at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign,” Jones said, adding that he’s seen the number of street food vendors in his district increase recently.
The street vendor bill signed into law in June gives counties and cities the authority to establish a clear path for street vendors to operate legally by modernizing rules that often make it too difficult, time-consuming or expensive to obtain valid permits.
During the board meeting Tuesday, several commissioners emphasized that operating as a mobile food vendor without a valid license is still illegal under state law.
Clark County Commissioner Marylin Kirkpatrick said there are about 300 street food vendors operating in the county who hope to work towards a license once ordinances and regulations are created.
Over the weekend, several commissioners received calls urging the board to start the process of creating a path to licensure for street food vendors, said Clark County Commissioner William McCurdy. County staff said they would start by establishing what areas street food vendors are allowed to operate.
Kirkpatrick said “there has to be tons of workshops” before the board decides where to allow street food vendors and what ordinances will look like. Jones added he believes food and ice cream trucks need to be involved in the process to ensure “fairness” of competition.
Tick Segerblom, vice-chair of the Clark County Commission, expressed alarm at the possibility of street food vendors being deported over violating food vendor regulations in the future.
“I hope this doesn’t involve some type of a process where people are going to be deported. That’s not what our intent was. So let’s workout whatever we can do to make sure that our ordinance is not being used to deport anyone.”
Kirkpatrick said most street food vendors in her district operate using English, Spanish, and Tagalog. She called for workshops in the three languages in order to offer vendors educational materials.
The street vending bill established a task force under the Nevada secretary of state’s office, the agency responsible for business permitting, charged with recommending regulations for sidewalk vending. County officials said the mandated task force will be convened concurrently with the county’s work on ordinances.
The task force — made up of nine members appointed by the secretary of state — will include a health district representative, a government employee responsible for business licensing, a gaming or restaurant representative, law enforcement, and four members who are sidewalk vendors or representatives of that community.
Maggie Salas Crespo, deputy secretary for the secretary of state office, said the secretary of state has not appointed any members to the task force, but hopes to by early fall.
Some Nevada residents are already proposing their own recommendations. Toni Marie Lopez-Gonzalez, a school crossing guard, spoke during the county meeting about her concerns with allowing street vendors to operate in school zones.
“The children will dart across traffic to get to them, cars will dart across traffic,” Lopez-Gonzales said. “It really is unsafe. It’s very unsafe.”
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