By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Food trucks have operated on a limited basis in Cherokee for awhile now, but an ordinance change to the Cherokee Code paves the way for more and codifies the practice in tribal law. Tribal Council passed Ord. No. 83 (2020), submitted by the EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office), unanimously during its regular session on Thursday, Feb. 6.
Ord. No. 83 amends Cherokee Code Section 130-4(a) to make food trucks lawful.
“At TERO, we’re charged with certifying economic entities – tribal members who want to go into business”, Terri Henry, TERO executive director, told Council on Thursday. “We’ve had several individuals who have approached us about wanting to have food trucks and wanting to go into that type of a business.”
The Code section states, “It shall be unlawful for any person, individual, firm, association, organization, partnership, business trust, corporation or company to sell at wholesale or retail any meats, meat food products, poultry, poultry products, fish, shellfish, crustacea, scallop, and seafood products from any nonpermanent structure.”
Henry noted, “We totally support that paragraph because my understanding from the history on this is that you guys may recall that many years ago there were situations where there were these individuals that were driving up and down the roads selling frozen meats out of the back of trucks, and that’s what I think the intent of this ordinance was designed for.”
She said times have changed in the past 20 to 30 years from when people were selling unregulated items more frequently.
When amended on Thursday, several exemptions were added to the Section including, “The following shall be exempt from this section…(2) Mobile food units, as defined in 15A NCAC 18A.2651(12), possessing all of the permits and licenses required by the State of North Carolina and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.” An identical item (3) was added to include pushcarts as well as food trucks.
Henry said, “We’re currently in a food desert because most of the restaurants are closed (seasonally). But, besides that, we’d like to open an opportunity for some of our tribal members to become entrepreneurs, to have mobile food trucks or trailers, and that they could be TERO-certified to conduct that kind of business.”
She did note that there has been an allowance for food trucks on tribal lands even prior to Thursday’s Code change. “It required that the vendor must receive a permit from the county before it could receive a business license from the Tribe.”
She added, “It seems a good idea for the Tribe to reconsider the blanket prohibition on food trucks and give us the opportunity to carve out a small, specific area that we can actually regulate following the rules of the State of North Carolina and the Tribe.”
Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose said, “I’m glad the food trucks are coming. They’ll be a lot more places to eat. They’re doing it everywhere else. We need to do it here.”
He brought up the question of whether these trucks could sell alcohol if they were within the “Blue Ridge” area deemed appropriate to sell. A brief discussion ensued, and it was determined that the food trucks, as approved under Ord. No. 83, would not be allowed to sell alcohol under the current laws so it was a non-issue at this time.
Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle said food trucks are common in many cities and towns, and he made the motion to the pass the legislation. “I think this is an added asset to the Qualla Boundary, and to the Tribe, for visitors, workers, and tribal members alike.”