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Seattle eases street food rules

Josh Henderson owns Skillet Street Food in Seattle.
Deena Prichep
Josh Henderson owns Skillet Street Food in Seattle.

Vendors who sell so-called "street food" in Seattle can finally sell it ... on the street. Since the 1980s, food trucks have been restricted to private property.

The city council passed a measure that now gives them the go ahead to hawk goodies from public curbs.

Councilwoman Sally Clark led the effort to open up rules for mobile eateries. She says it'll make it easier for more people to start selling food if their businesses are on wheels.

"A cart, or a truck, these are not cheap still, but it is different from finding a large space in a brick and mortar restaurant," Clark said. "So, it can be a place for people to enter and start a new small business."

The city also had an economic incentive.

Food trucks will have to pay for permits to vend on Seattle streets, an hourly fee to use spots and stiff fines if they violate the rules. Those include staying in specially marked "zones" that are at least 50 feet from existing restaurants, and close to a bathroom that staff members can use.

The measure also allows sidewalk food carts to offer more snack options. They've been limited to pretzels, popcorn, hot dogs and coffee. Now, they can sell just about anything they cook up ...  as long as meat is prepared in an approved kitchen and only reheated on site.

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Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.