Restaurant owner hopeful to operate late night-food trailer


Local residents and motorists passing through Seymour late at night might soon have another food option if members of the Seymour City Council are able to tweak the city’s food truck ordinance.

That change would allow the owner of El Nopal, a Mexican restaurant at 1863 E. Tipton St., to operate a mobile food trailer in front of the restaurant after it closes on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Dan Robison, president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, and El Nopal owner Leonel Alvarez asked city council members during their meeting Monday night asking for a variance to the city’s mobile food ordinance so El Nopal could operate a late-night food trailer on the restaurant’s property.

Alvarez said his plan is to open the food trailer immediately once his restaurant closes at 10 p.m. and keep it open until 2 a.m. Plans are to serve tamales, Cuban sandwiches and tacos from the food trailer, which would not move around the city, except for local events such as Oktoberfest.

No alcoholic beverages would be served from the food trailer.

Councilman Chad Hubbard asked Alvarez why he wouldn’t just leave his restaurant open later.

Alvarez said it’s because it would be cheaper to open the food trailer instead of the restaurant, there’s not much open during the hours he wants to operate and he wants to sell something different that people might want to try.

Robison said Alvarez was looking for an exception to two points of the city’s mobile food ordinance.

The first point is the one that won’t allow mobile food establishments to operate within a certain proximity to other restaurants.

“We believe an exception should be made for Mr. Alvarez related to this point of the ordinance due to the fact that the existing food establishment that would cause him to be in violation is in fact his own restaurant,” he said.

Arby’s would be the next closest restaurant to El Nopal’s property at approximately 480 feet away, Robison said.

The other point limited mobile food establishments to only operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Robison said there should be an exception to that point of the ordinance because the food trailer would operate when other restaurants are closed and El Nopal’s property is zoned in a commercial district and “wanting to be good neighbors.”

Councilman Jerry Hackney asked city attorney Christina Engleking if the ordinance would have to change for every mobile food establishment if there was to be an exception to Alvarez.

“In my opinion, if an exception would be made for this individual business, an ordinance change would be required,” she said.

There are three exceptions for mobile food establishments in the ordinance: Merchants that deliver food that was previously ordered, are approved to sell food as part of a city event or sell farm products produced by themselves.

Mayor Matt Nicholson said in recent months, there have been noise and traffic complaints about a food truck that operated late at night.

While city code does have a noise ordinance, Nicholson said it’s hard to enforce due to decibel levels that are difficult to measure.

The difference between that truck and Alvarez’s business venture, Nicholson said, is the truck was in a residential area.

The Seymour Board of Public Works and Safety can give special event passes for food vendors approved for a city event, and Councilman Bret Cunningham asked if Alvarez could be permitted those.

Nicholson said special event passes are intended to be given out as an annual exception and not every weekend.

Councilman Dave Earley said El Nopal has a unique situation and would operate in an ideal location.

He asked fellow council members if they were “relatively in favor” of approving Alvarez’s operation, and Cunningham said he felt everyone was open to figuring everything out.

Before the end of the meeting, Nicholson tasked the city’s retail and development committee, which consists of Cunningham and Hubbard, to look into the issue.

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