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‘Open for business’: Street food vending legalized under new bill

Updated July 18, 2023 - 7:28 pm

Street food vendors will soon have a path to legitimize their small business in Nevada.

Gov. Joe Lombardo and Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar attended a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 92 at the Latin Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

“In my state of the state, you may recall I said Nevada is open for business,” Lombardo said to the crowd. “So today this proves it.”

While licenses have yet to become available, the law — which officially took effect July 1 — requires guidelines to be set by local health departments around selling food on the street. A task force would also discuss how to make licenses affordable and accessible to street food vendors.

The Task Force on Safe Sidewalk Vending, made up of nine members that would be appointed by the Office of the Secretary of State, is currently being assembled. The task force would include a representative from the health department, one for business licences, a member of the gaming or restaurant agency, a representative of the Secretary of State and four street food vendors or community organization affiliated with vendors.

Peter Guzman, president and CEO of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, said he was working behind the scenes to get the governor comfortable with the fact that street vendors aren’t going anywhere.

“(The governor has) been saying ‘Open for business,’” Guzman said. “If you’re going to say that, then let’s be about that and get them to have business licences, insurance and health department certifications.”

Sen. Fabian Doñate, D-Las Vegas, the primary sponsor of the bill, said previously he believes it’s important to keep decriminalizing street food vending in residential neighborhoods. Doñate expects future street food vendor licences to have similar requirements to food trucks that require a state license, a business license and a health permit.

Although the bill will provide a path to legalizing street food vending, it prohibits anyone from selling food on a sidewalk or pedestrian path within 1,500 feet of a resort hotel, major or minor sports team facilities with a capacity of at least 20,000, conventions and state historical markers.

This prevents any street food vendors from working on the Strip. But Doñate has said that those selling on the Strip are typically not locals.

There are currently no penalties in place if a street food vendor breaks the rule, as no task force has been established.

More security for vendors

The way Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar sees it, street food vendors are entrepreneurs that put their entire life savings into their business.

Over the last five years, Vertin Gonzales has been working as a vendor. In that time, he’s had his merchandise taken from him by the local health department.

“We’re constantly worried that when we go out there (the health department) is going to take everything,” Gonzales said in Spanish, saying his merchandise has been taken from him twice during his time in Las Vegas.

Gonzales sells raspados — shaved ice with flavoring — elotes and fruit.

He and another street vendor, Eduardo Moreno, are both excited for the passage of SB 92. Moreno, who also sells raspados, elotes and fruit, has been robbed four times.

“There’s more security for us (street food vendors),” Moreno said in Spanish. “By working with the police it’ll give us more protections.”

Now that the bill is passed, Moreno believes the police can protect more street food vendors, many of whom are Hispanic.

There is a fear in the Latino community of interacting with police officers, Lombardo said Tuesday. He says police’s goal is to be partners in the community and embrace them.

Doñate will work with groups like Make the Road Nevada and the Governor’s Office for New Americans on implementation of the law.

‘We’re going to continue helping as much as possible,” said Vincent Nava, a senior advisor for the Governor’s Office for New Americans. “We want to connect people with resources that can get them to their goal. Often times we see legislation passed and many people not know about it, so we’re really going to push to get the word out about this.”

Contact Jimmy Romo at jromo@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0350. Follow @jimi_writes on Twitter. Contact Kiara Adams at kadams@reviewjournal.com 0r 702-380-0399. Follow @kiadams101 on Twitter.

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