Mobile Food Vendor Toolkit

Food Truck 1Mobile food vending is another great way to be a part of the city’s culinary scene. While this fast-growing industry offers an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs, getting a food business up and running can be challenging, even for an experienced restaurant owner.

In 2019, the city of Aurora updated its Mobile Food Truck regulations to make it even easier for food truck vendors to operate in Aurora.

The program continues to identify locations where food trucks are permitted. An online map shows these areas.

What is a mobile food vendor, otherwise known as a food truck?
In Aurora, a mobile food truck is defined as a retail food establishment that is not intended to be permanent, and is a motorized wheeled vehicle, or non-motorized unit such as a trailer, which is designed and equipped to serve food and beverages. It operates in either a static or transitory location, and serves the public between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. The vendor physically reports to and operates from a commissary kitchen for servicing, restocking and maintenance each operating day.

Is mobile food vending right for you?
If you are considering starting a mobile food service operation in Aurora, this “Mobile Food Vendor Toolkit” can provide information needed to turn this idea into reality. It includes resources for required permits and license applications, sample contracts and explanations of the guidelines to starting a new mobile food service.

This toolkit does not address all of the legal issues that may arise for a prospective mobile food service.  When using this toolkit, consider the following:

  1. Only mobile food vending requirements in the city of Aurora are addressed.
  2. While general information about the law/regulations as it might apply to a mobile food vending is stated, the information should not be considered as legal advice and is not meant to take the place of an attorney. For all specific legal questions, consult a lawyer or other professional legal services provider.
  3. Because laws may change, be sure to verify that the laws and regulations discussed in this toolkit are still applicable and current before acting on them, including what’s included in Aurora’s Mobile Food Truck Ordinance.
  4. Information is provided without any representations or warranties expressed or implied.

Getting started

There are many great resources out there to help in starting a mobile food vending business. The Colorado Small Business Network offers free seminars and counseling at 14 different centers across the state. The Colorado SBDC website also has a wealth of information.

Planning for success

Developing a business plan, identifying a legal resource and preparing for certain taxes and licensing requirements are all parts of planning for your success. The Aurora-South Metro Small Business Development Center offers free and low-cost seminars that can answer questions on these topics and more. Contact info@Aurora-SouthMetroSBDC.com or 303.326.8690 for details.

Regulatory requirements

Make sure that your mobile food vending business complies with the necessary requirements in Aurora and other jurisdictions.

City Business License: Mobile food vendors are required to have a city of Aurora business license. This license includes Aurora sales tax collection as applicable for food.

Tri-County Health Department: Vendors also will need a mobile retail food service license issued through Tri-County Health Department, which authorizes selling to take place in Aurora. The Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations provides complete rules and regulations. A Mobile Food Vendor that has never been licensed by Tri-County Health Department must go through a plan review. For details, call the plan review hotline at 303.846.6230.

Using a Commissary Kitchen: For mobile food trucks operating in Aurora, the food vendor will need to have formal connection to a commissary kitchen. This facility is a fixed, licensed food establishment where vendors assemble and store food as well as clean and sanitize equipment. Possible locations include community kitchens, church kitchens or restaurant kitchens during off-hours. All mobile food equipment will need a written agreement with a certified commissary kitchen to receive a health permit from Tri-County Health Department.

State Sales Tax License: Mobile food vendors will need a Colorado Sales Tax License. The state’s Department of Revenue has a useful FYI guide to understand taxing food.

Additional city of Aurora requirements

See the Aurora Mobile Food Truck Ordinance amendment 146-1254 for complete details.

  • Mobile food vendors cannot operate in a residential zone district (R zone) or within 50 feet of the property line of a single-family home.
  • The 50-foot setback from the property line of a single-family home does not apply if the food truck is serving patrons of a brick-and-mortar business and is not using any equipment that would violate noise restrictions for the neighboring residential.
  • Mobile food vendors cannot operate within 175 feet of an open brick-and-mortar restaurant unless the restaurant or the restaurant's property owner gives written permission.
  • Mobile food vendors cannot operate on city-owned property unless they have a temporary use permit or vendor agreement.
  • If smoking food, you may wish to park adjacent to the commissary kitchen with which you are working.
  • To operate on a city street or highway you need to be legally parked. No mobile food service can block, obstruct or interfere with vehicular traffic.
  • Some forms of food preparation fall under the Colorado Cottage Foods Act and may be prepared from home. Check Tri-County Health for details.
  • Normal hours of operation are designated between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • The Aurora business and Tri-County licenses will be displayed at all times while vending and produced upon request.
  • Mobile food vendors are not allowed to set out seating and tables for customers, add fixed infrastructure or use amplified sound.
  • Trash removal is important. Mobile food vendors must keep business sites clean and free of litter.
Food Truck

Finding the right locations

Private Property: Usually will need a written agreement with the property owner to operate.

Street Parking: Certain locations may require additional permits.

Fairs, Festivals and Events: Special events (either one time or re-occurring) can provide additional sources of revenue for your mobile food service. The permit and application process may vary with each event, so be sure to check with the event organizer and the city of Aurora for details.

    If in doubt, check with the city’s Planning & Development Services Department to verify whether a location is in the proper zone.

    Obtain auto insurance for vehicle

    • Generally, liability insurance for the business must satisfy a $1 million coverage minimum.
    • The insurance company may require that you take a food safety course for the liability. Enrolling in a food safety course will also greatly help with filling out the application for a Retail Food Establishment License.
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