November 27, 2014

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Oberlin food truck business hits road block

Jeremy Reimnitz, left, and Casey Silverstein, both Oberlin College juniors, stand in front of their food truck, and mobile business, North Coast Toast, on Nov. 9. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Jeremy Reimnitz, left, and Casey Silverstein, both Oberlin College juniors, stand in front of their food truck, and mobile business, North Coast Toast, on Nov. 9. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

OBERLIN — Oberlin College student Casey Silverstein said he never expected the challenges he has faced to get his food truck business, North Coast Toast, up and running.

Silverstein, along with business partners Jeremy Reimnitz and Evan Zierk, envisioned a gourmet grilled-cheese food-truck business during a Creativity and Leadership class at Oberlin College. The entrepreneurship class is designed to get students to “build skills, knowledge and experience they need to launch their ideas,” according to the Oberlin College website.

Silverstein said he received a Creativity and Leadership grant, and the group also took to the fundraising website Kickstarter for donations. With 130 backers, North Coast Toast exceeded its goal and raised $9,759.

“The community should have a late-night food option. … I think we’re providing something that’s extremely cheap. We source all of our food options locally,” he said.

North Coast Toast has been open only a few times — once at a private event, during a TGIF event on campus and during the business’ launch party — Silverstein said. But Silverstein was ordered to cease operations until he received a conditional-use permit from the city to operate on Oberlin College property.

Silverstein, who said he plans to meet with the city’s planning department, said he hopes to begin operations again because students want another food option on campus.

City Director of Planning and Development Gary Boyle said he still is waiting for North Coast Toast to submit a permit application.

The food-truck operation has prompted the city to re-examine its regulations as the popularity of food-truck ventures grows across the state.

Food trucks are embraced in Cleveland, but the city of Akron has banned vendors from selling items out of vehicles on public property.

Akron City Council is re-examining the laws on its books regarding food trucks, but city restaurants are opposed to allowing the food trucks to operate outside of special events, contending that the low-overhead food trucks will take their business and could cost the city jobs and tax income.

Boyle said North Coast Toast could apply for a conditional-use permit to operate on private property, but the city doesn’t have any rules or regulations for food trucks operating on public property. Boyle said that although North Coast Toast had operated solely on private property, city officials are taking a look at their laws.

The city does not allow food trucks on public street rights-of-way, with the exception of special city events.

“The only time we’ve had (food trucks) is part of special events downtown,” he said.

Food trucks were the subject of debate during a Sept. 4 Oberlin Planning Commission meeting after North Coast Toast submitted a preliminary application. During the meeting, various city departments reviewed where food trucks could be located, policies on utility hook-ups, waste disposal and licensing.

Boyle, who brought up complaints from traditional restaurants about food trucks, discussed ways to settle disputes, including a lottery system so that a particular vendor does not always get the most desired locations. He said regulations for food trucks could be accomplished in a similar manner to the development of regulations for sidewalk cafes, which previously were considered by the Planning Commission, City Council and the community.

The Commission directed staff to continue researching regulations regarding food-vendor trucks and to submit a report and draft guidelines for consideration at an upcoming meeting. That report was outlined by Boyle on Oct. 18 and suggested limiting hours of operation, requiring the business to supply trash receptacles and limiting excessive lighting and noise, as well as requiring the business to have liability insurance.

Silverstein said he also has submitted a report by the Institute for Justice on food-truck regulations to the city for review.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.

 


  • Beentheredonethat

    Gentlemen, welcome to the real world! Every small business owner struggles with the same “Bureaucratic Red Tape” on a daily basis. One reason the economy is in such bad shape. Good luck on your venture! Be sure and pay anyone you hire a “fare” minimum wage of $15.00 per hour also.

  • tired of morons

    Government killing entrepreneurs … rule by bureaucracy. Have you had enough yet?

  • Macdaddyoh

    F-oberlin…go to elyria

  • Mark_Chesler

    North Coast Toast’s assiduous, brazen efforts to flout, eschew and circumvent codified Oberlin Planning Commission regulations have been facilitated, enabled and orchestrated by senior Oberlin College administrators.

    Responding to an obsequious, fawning, saccharine, September

    6, 2013 (2:33 PM) e-mail from Tita Reed, Special Assistant to Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov, concerning the [fictitive] legal status of North Coast Toast’s proposed mobile food cart, City of Oberlin Planning & Development Director Gary Boyle admonished, in a trenchant, September 9, 2013 (2:21 PM) directive:

    “Mr. Silverstein has been advised by staff as well as the Health Department that permits must be obtained before North Coast Toast starts operation. In this regard, it is my understanding that over the Labor Day weekend both the Police and Fire Departments received complaints concerning North Coast Toast’s food trailer. Needless to say, any comment to them that you may want to make to remind them that they cannot operate absent approvals would be appreciated.”

    Although cognizant that, under current City of Oberlin Planning Commission regulations, absent a municipally sanctioned Conditional Use permit, food carts and food trucks are legislatively prohibited — “Technically we aren’t supposed to be on college property,” Casey Silverstein conceded in a fractionally candid interview with the scatological student tabloid, The Grape (October 17, 2013) — Mr. Silverstein operated North Coast Toast’s unlicensed, unauthorized, illegal food cart in Oberlin College’s tax-exempt Wilder Bowl on September 27, 2013, with, according to Mr. Silverstein, “permission from Chris Baymiller, the [associate] head of the Oberlin College Student Union.”[1]
    Mr. Silverstein moonlights as the Oberlin College Student Union’s official
    Dionysus disco webmaster under the ostensible supervision of Mr. Baymiller.

    Shortly after providing Tita Reed, Special Assistant to Oberlin College
    President Marvin Krislov, with incriminating, photographic evidence — posted on North Coast Toast’s Facebook home page — of flagrant, municipal, mobile vending cart violations committed by North Coast Toast and Oberlin College, Oberlin City Manager Eric Norenberg sardonically noted, in a dead-pan, diplomatic, October 11, 2013 (3:31 PM) dispatch to Tita Reed, “I
    expect they plan/planned to park near Mudd or Wilder for today’s TGIF. Maybe
    you can see it from [Oberlin College Presidential Chief of Staff] Jane [Mathison]’s window?”

    Ms. Reed replied to Mr. Norenberg in serial, October 11, 2013 (3:33 PM), (3:53 PM) — and, burning the midnight oil attempting to grease, hector and manipulate the bureaucratic, municipal skids, 11:10 PM — finagling e-mails: “If they are on private property and ask for donations rather than set prices, does it make a difference?” Appropriating an impolitic expedient suggested by Mr. Norenberg, the indefatigable Ms. Reed myopically opted to accompany a stymied, fiscally “hemorrhaging”[2] Mr. Silverstein to a prospective meeting with City of Oberlin Planning & Development Director Gary Boyle.

    Characterizing Mr. Silverstein as “a very confused person” in a scathing, October 11, 2013 (4:38 PM) e-mail, addressed to senior municipal department heads, following a blistering, 5-alarm, riot act, withering rebuke of Mr. Silverstein, Oberlin Fire Chief Dennis Kirin concluded, “His conversation suggested that he has been operating around the city.” Haunted by incipient public perception that, in Mr. Silverstein’s sophomoric, uncouth vernacular, he had presumptively “really [expletive deleted] over those [angel, Kickstarter financial] backers,”[3] North Coast Toast surreptitiously operated an adjunct, unlicensed, unauthorized, illegal, contraband food-cart catering business in the venerable, reprobate tradition of Lorain County Health Department shuttered, stealth, recidivist, Oberlin scofflaw, Failure to Lunch.

    “Our vagrant food trailer…the grill[ed] cheese boys,”[4] in the delicious, pungent argot of Oberlin Fire Chief Dennis Kirin is — pardon my
    graphic, colloquial French — categorically toast.

    Mark Chesler
    P.O. Box 342
    Oberlin, Ohio 44074

    [1] “Grilled Cheese Truck Poised to Satiate Hungry Obies,” The Grape, October 17, 2013, p.3.

    [2] “Grilled Cheese Truck Poised to Satiate Hungry Obies,” The Grape, October 17, 2013, p.3.

    [3] “Grilled Cheese Truck Poised to Satiate Hungry Obies,” The Grape, October 17, 2013, p.3.

    [4] Oberlin Fire Chief Dennis Kirin e-mail to City of Oberlin Planning & Development Director Gary Boyle, September 4, 2013 (1:38 PM).

    • Zen Grouch

      **…conceded in a fractionally candid interview with the scatological student tabloid, The Grape…**

      “…scatological”

      Yeah, that’s the first thing that came to mind while reading this post.

  • bpbatista

    Here’s the key to the entire matter: “city restaurants are opposed to . . . the low overhead food trucks [that] will take their business.”

    The restaurant owners don’t want competition and lower prices for consumers. Plus those owners are probably connected with local politicians and health inspectors and are applying plenty of grease to many a palm to keep the competition away.

    • Bob Owens

      Speculation or fact? Support your claim.

  • Zen Grouch

    I guess their “Creativity and Leadership” class skipped the part about making sure your business is legal and eligible for the required permits.

    They put the food cart before the horse.

    **Where can I get me some of that thar grant money?**

  • oldruss

    Given that the City of Oberlin tried banning weapons from city parks in contravention of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and in contravention of the Ohio Constitution and statutory laws; it does not surprise me that the city has now taken aim at a couple of college kids trying to make a success out of their Creativity and Leadership Class project.

    • Bob Owens

      This has NOTHING to do with the 2nd amendment or guns.

      • oldruss

        It’s the mentality of the people in Oberlin city government. Oberlin has its own rules, like the Queen of Hearts from Alice In Wonderland, and by gosh, everybody’s going to follow the rules. Otherwise, it’s “off with their heads!”

        • infinitefancies

          “Oberlin is peculiar in that which is good.” You’re just jealous you don’t live here…

  • infinitefancies

    “Oberlin is peculiar in that which is good.”