SAPD Rarely Gives Tickets For Food Truck Permits, But Joan Cheever Got One While Feeding The Homeless

Joan Cheever is one of four people to be cited for violating Section 13.62 this year. - CARLOS SANCHEZ
Carlos Sanchez
Joan Cheever is one of four people to be cited for violating Section 13.62 this year.

On April 7, Joan Cheever, who runs The Chow Train, a mobile nonprofit food service, received a citation for violating Section 13.62 of the city’s Food and Food Handlers code. She received the citation during her normal Tuesday evening route, when she feeds San Antonio's hungry and homeless for free.  

San Antonio police issued Cheever a citation because she was serving out of her personal vehicle, and not the licensed food truck itself. The spaces on Cheever's route are tight, so she often leaves the 14-feet-long food truck trailer behind.

But citations for Section 13.62 are rare. Cheever is just one of four people to receive one this year, according to records obtained by the San Antonio Current. Although SAPD used to issue significantly more citations for the ordinance, it hardly ever does now.

SAPD issued only five citations for Section 13.62 in 2014, after issuing almost 100 in 2011. The graph below shows the number of citations issued each year from 2005 to 2015:

SAPD officials have not yet responded to requests for comment on what caused such a drop.

This map displays all of the citations for Section 13.62 issued since 2005:

The violations tend to cluster around downtown, which makes sense. That's where the population is densest, and where food trucks might go to find the most foot traffic.

The map above shows all the violations since 2005 at once though. The GIF below show the geographic disbursement of citations every year since 2010:

Via City of San Antonio

After initially offering her a plea bargain, the city dismissed Cheever's citation on July 14. She and her lawyers have drafted a new copy of the ordinance for which she was cited, which would provide free food handler training to charitable feeding groups like hers, and provide exemptions in the food code for street feeders with the required training. It's unknown whether the city will support the change. 

Cheever is contemplating filing a federal lawsuit against the city if it fails to change the ordinance. Such a change probably wouldn't happen before next month at the earliest.
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