Food Vendors Banned From Williston | VideoEvan Kruegel | 10/16/2012
One of those businesses is the Big Iron Kitchen, who re-located to Williston after traveling the country, serving up burgers and nachos at hundreds of events.
"Every place we went there was somebody that would come and say would you please come to Williston and feed us? We can`t get any good food in Williston,” said owner Jo Bingham.
Bingham and her husband made the move up to North Dakota, hoping to make a solid living feeding oil workers. They set up in the parking lot of Champs Bar, and business was good. That is, until the city passed an ordinance banning mobile food vendors from city limits.
"There are a couple issues with vendors, one is certainly a sanitation issue, a concern. You don`t have bathroom facilities for the people that are working there so some issues related to that. Then there`s traffic issues, if they`re not set up in the right place it can create issues with traffic,” said Mayor Ward Koeser.
Coffee kiosks will be allowed to stay as long as they only serve pre-packaged food along with their drinks. The city`s perception is that on-site prepared food could be unsanitary and tough to regulate, but Bingham disagrees.
"You can keep these things clean. In fact they`re easier to keep clean, I worked in the restaurant industry for many, many years and you can keep these just as clean as a restaurant if not cleaner because it`s a small compact space."
For city leaders, the issues go beyond just sanitation and traffic. They want Williston to start growing as a permanent community, and banning mobile food vendors helps reduce the temporary feel of business in the area.
"It just helps give us a better image as a community. So I think it`s important that we as a commission help address these issues one at a time, we try to give people time to react, and we`re not trying to cause a hardship for people, but we really want a community that everybody can be proud of,” said Koeser.
For the Binghams, the ordinance is a costly blow. They`ve been serving close to 100 hungry workers every day, many of them regulars, and now they`ve got to pack up.
"We’re very, very upset. When [the ordinance] first came down, I thought, `Oh my God, what am I going to do?` I put my heart and soul into this. I lost my mind when I turned 50 and this is what I decided to do. And I enjoy it, it`s not every day you can say I love going to work every morning…and I do."
The ban will give vendors a few days to pack up and leave after receiving a written notice. Big Iron Kitchen has begun construction on a permanent building behind Champs Bar, so when the notice to leave comes, they hope to be ready to continue business.