City Council passes first reading of ordinance amendments for mobile food vendors, massage therapists and taxi drivers
Posted Tue, Apr 11, 2023 6:47am
Albert Lea City Council is considering changes to the city’s licensing requirements for mobile food vendors, massage therapists and taxi drivers.
The commission on Monday approved the first reading of amendments to three city ordinances that would strengthen consumer protections when using the three services.
City Manager Ian Rigg said mobile food vendors will still need to obtain a license from the city to ensure they meet state licensing and inspection requirements.
The ordinance also requires prepackaged or non-food vendors doing business on city property to register to ensure they are an insured business and provide basic contact information.
Basically, if a vendor sells their wares on city property or on a right-of-way, they will need to provide the city with their identities and what they are doing, as well as information about their insurance and state licenses, Rigg said.
In the ordinance on massage therapists, Rigg said it was almost completely redone. The ordinance requires therapists to be trained by an accredited program and maintain liability insurance.
Background information provided by the city said the purpose of the ordinance was to address concerns about permit authenticity, business history and public safety.
Currently, the city’s ordinance requires little evidence or background, and almost anyone can get a driver’s license, Rigg said.
The ordinance sets out standards for conduct, cleanliness, hours of operation, experience and background checks.
First Ward MP Rachel Christensen raised a point about how many massage therapists are trained to give massage without shoes because it provides better balance and grounding.
Third Ward MP Jason Howland said there were even some massage therapists using the feet.
Sherri Rasmussen, MP for Ward 4, also raised the issue of skirt and short length requirements for therapists, as the ordinance requires no more than three inches above the knee.
The hardest part, Rigg said, was finding wording that wasn’t open to interpretation, because there’s always the threat that this type of business could become a sexually oriented business.
Most important, he said, is to develop a standard code that clearly distinguishes legitimate businesses from those that involve other activities that have a negative relationship to massage therapy, and reduce the chances of such use.
Regarding taxi drivers, Rigg said the ordinance adds basic safety items, including background checks, viewing driving history information, including charges of reckless driving, speeding or driving while intoxicated, and whether the individual has a history of committing fraud.
He said at least six people contacted the city after Albert Lea Taxi closed, hoping to open business.
“It was during these discussions that we realized our decree was sorely lacking,” he said.
Similar requirements already apply to drivers of ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.
The city will consider a second reading of the ordinance in four weeks to allow time for people to provide feedback.
Please check back for more information on the conference.