Food vendors play a big part in the eater's evolution. Many children grow up chasing ice cream trucks and hot dog carts. Young adults in large metro areas often frequent food carts as a late-night snack option. But becoming one of these vendors isn't easy. It takes reams of paperwork, several tests and a number of application fees. Rules for these vendors vary by state, county and city, but some requirements prove nearly universal.
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Business License and Sales Tax
The first step for vendors is to obtain a business license from their city hall. The steps to obtaining the specific permit vary by city, but generally new business owners are often asked to fill out forms giving a description of the business and what kind of services it will provide. Most municipalities also require supplementary forms depending on the type of business.
As a registered business, all mobile vendors must pay sales tax. Requirements for how much must be made and the ways in which vendors must do so can be found at the city's finance department.
Food Handler Permit and County Health Certification
Anyone working with food must first obtain a food handler's license. Tests for these permits are most often found at the county level and can translate through multiple counties, but not from state to state. Obtaining this permit typically involves a short class followed by an exam. In most areas, vendors are also required to submit paperwork to the county health department to ensure that all food preparation practices are up to code.
Street Vending License or Local Equivalent
Most cities that allow vendors on the street require them to obtain a specific permit to do so. The kinds of businesses that need this permit include ice cream trucks, hot dog carts and other vendors that sell items on city streets. These permits are available most often at city hall or the city's courthouse. Applications for these permits require specific descriptions of what will be sold and what kind of cart or vehicle will be used, so food vendors will need a clear idea about the scope of the business at this point.
Public or Private Property
The area where vendors decide to sell their food greatly influences the kinds of permits they must obtain. In some areas, selling on private property is the only area in which food vendors are allowed. Other areas, such as in Davis, California, require special permits for each type of property. Other cities have passed ordinances allowing food vendors to operate in certain zoning areas.
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