Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions - Mobile Vending


Q: According to the city’s code, what is the definition of a mobile food vendor?

City Code Section 4.35.010 defines a Mobile Vendor as “a person conducting the business of selling a product from a motor vehicle, cart or trailer towed by a vehicle on a temporary, intermittent or seasonal basis. Sales will be conducted on a public street.” A Mobile Vending Vehicle is defined as “any motor vehicle, cart or trailer towed by a vehicle from which a product is sold.”  Note that El Dorado County and State of California codes also contain definitions of similar terms for the application of those regulations.

Q: When and where can a food truck sell food within the City of South Lake Tahoe?

City Code Section 4.35 provides the opportunity for food trucks to operate on City streets with an owner’s and operator’s permit issued by the Police Department and subject to operational requirements specified in the Code.  City Code Section 6.55.230 provides the opportunity for food trucks to operate on private property as part of an approved Temporary Activity. Food trucks may operate at City parks and beaches as part of an approved concessionaire agreement or Special Event. All business operations within the City limits are subject to Business and Professions Code requirements for business licenses and tax payment.

Q: Can food trucks park on public streets in designated parking spaces?

Food trucks with valid Mobile Vending Permits as required by City Code Section 4.35 may park on public streets, consistent with California Vehicle Code and City Code. Parking to conduct business is limited to 15 minutes in any one location. Food trucks operating within an approved Temporary Activity are subject to parking requirements specified in the Temporary Activity Permit.

Q: What agencies regulate food trucks in South Lake Tahoe?

Food trucks in the City of South Lake Tahoe require approval from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, El Dorado County Health Division, and the City of South Lake Tahoe.

Q: What agencies regulate food trucks in other cities?

Requirements of the California Department of Housing and Community Development apply to all food trucks operating within California.  Food trucks are also subject to permitting requirements of the county health department and city in which they operate.

Q: How do we know food trucks are serving food safely?

The El Dorado County Health Division provides regulatory services for Mobile Food Facilities (MFF). As with any method of food sale, care must be taken to safely handle food products to prevent sickness or injury to the public. Any type of unpackaged food product which is handled directly or incidentally may become contaminated with disease causing organisms. When preparing and serving unpackaged food products, it is critical that provisions be made for hand washing, dishwashing, temperature control, and protecting food and utensils from contamination.  Stationary Food Preparation Units (SFPU) and Mobile Food Preparation Units (MFPU) shall go through a plan review and inspection with the El Dorado County Health Division prior to permit issuance.

Q: How can I start my own food truck business in South Lake Tahoe?

A local chamber of commerce can be an excellent resource for information and guidance on how to start a new business. Prior to starting a business it is helpful to understand applicable regulations and requirements. Contacting food truck permitting agencies for specifics on applicable regulations, permit requirements and operating restrictions

Q: What taxes and licenses does a non-local food truck (based out of another town outside of South Lake Tahoe) have to pay and obtain to sell food in South Lake Tahoe?

Any food truck operating in the City limits, regardless of where they are based, is required to obtain California Department of Housing and Community Development approval, City permits, El Dorado County approval and a City Business License. Tax rates are determined by the type of business.  For more information visit the City Finance Department webpage.

Q: What is a commissary?

El Dorado County Health Division requires verification of a commissary for food trucks.  A commissary is an approved, permitted commercial kitchen which an mobile food facility shall use for storage of food and supplies, cleaning and sanitizing of utensils, sanitary disposal of garbage and liquid waste, filling of the potable water tank, cleaning and maintenance of the mobile food facility, and any food prep that can’t be performed inside the vehicle. An operator is NOT PERMITTED to do any of these activities at home.

Q: Can food trucks sell food at beaches and parks in the City?

Food trucks can operate at beaches and parks in the City as part of an approved concessionaire agreement or Special Event.