Wauwatosa considers allowing food carts in Hart Park

July 26, 2011

A game of Frisbee, biking along a trail and playing tennis can really work up an appetite, and at least one Wauwatosa food vendor is interested in satisfying the hunger of Hart Park visitors.

China East restaurant, located at 68th and State streets, is interested in setting up a food cart or kiosk inside the park. Tosa has no specific ordinances governing the operation of such an endeavor on park property so the issue was turned over to the Parks and Forestry Board last week.

Commissioners said they don't believe a small food cart would take too much away from efforts to get park users to patronize neighboring Village businesses, and it would give park users a snack option when the stadium concession stand isn't open. The concession stand is operated by the high school booster clubs as a way to raise money.

It's easy to imagine one cart leading to interest in bringing wagons and food trucks to the park, Commissioner Steve Berg said.

"I'm not saying that's good or bad," he said. "We have to determine limits and whether they would pay a percentage of sales or a rental fee (to the city)."

In Mequon, a food cart sets up outside the pool in the summer, Board Chairman Tom Ertel said. The vendor takes in about $30,000 a season, and pays the city about $3,000 of that.

Board members expressed interest in the concept of allowing food sales in the park - Ertel said he believes such an arrangement would benefit the community and Berg pointed out that teens in a recent survey said they would like to be able to buy inexpensive food at Hart Park - but remain aware of the need to think the topic through carefully.

Commissioner Lisa Blair said she wants to make sure the park doesn't become "a mini A la Carte," referring to the annual zoo event in which food is cooked and sold from numerous tents and trucks.

It's unlikely China East would be ready or that an ordinance would be finalized in time for food sales in Hart Park this summer, but next year is a possibility, city staff members said.

The board may talk about the issue again Aug. 16.

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