A proposed ordinance would ban food carts near a bar-heavy, campus-area intersection and require food vendors in other areas Downtown to stop serving earlier due to safety concerns.
The proposal would bar food carts in two zones near the intersection of University Avenue and West Gilman and North Frances streets, an area “historically associated with over-consumption of alcohol,” said Madison police Central District Capt. Jason Freedman.
Two other two late-night zones for food carts — at the concrete park on State Street between Urban Outfitters and Potbelly, and on the 400 block of North Broom Street — don’t elicit the same concerns, but would be required to stop serving at 3 a.m. instead of their current 4 a.m. closing time.
If approved by the City Council, the earliest the ordinance would take effect is the second week of August.
The city is still considering new late-night locations for the large carts that would be displaced from the area of University, Gilman and Frances — JD’s of Wisconsin and Little Chicago in Madison.
The closing-time rush of hungry and tipsy patrons leaving area bars, such as Wando’s or the Red Shed, is a boon for the two carts that set up shop on West Gilman and North Frances streets.
But the “lingering” crowds have become a safety issue, said Meghan Blake-Horst, the city’s street vending coordinator.
“When people are gathering (after bars let out), it becomes dangerous in a few different ways,” Blake-Horst said. “Car traffic, earlier conflicts that become stronger conflicts as the night goes on ... this has been an ongoing battle and challenge for late-night vending.”
Freedman said police have been taking steps to “reduce ingredients that make (the area) such a volatile stew.”
“We’re looking at ways we can get the streets empty by 2:30 a.m., or certainly earlier than 4 a.m.,” Freedman said.
Those in search of a late-night bite will either have to walk to other food carts or eat at brick-and-mortar restaurants in the area, such as Ian’s Pizza, said Blake-Horst.
Madison has hosted late-night food vendors for at least the last 10 years, Blake-Horst said. There are currently five food carts in Madison licensed for late-night vending.
“We’re still having conversations about how we can solve the problem, and continue to grow, or move late-night vending,” Blake-Horst said.
Blake-Horst said she is working with police in the Central District to craft “creative” solutions that will maximize the benefits food carts bring to community spaces, while limiting “negative behavior” that the carts can inadvertently foster in late-night crowds.