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Independent Bar Food Vendors: Good? Bad? Illegal?

A very bright Disher with a mind for springing questions asks for your opinion. Seems he frequents three bars, the names of which I have removed, where independent food vendors enter the establishment and sell barbecue sandwiches, burritos, tamales, and other items. The bartenders don’t seem to mind because they don’t serve food. My first thought is that the selling of food in a public establishment without a catering license is illegal. Here is his initial question.

I’ve noticed a trend in bars that don’t serve food which I’d like to get your opinion on. It’s very common now to see different food vendors walking through places like the XXX, XXX, and XXX selling barbecue, tamales, burritos, etc. On a given night, these vendors will make several passes through these bars and I’ve seen them sell as much as $35 on a single pass. What’s the protocol on this? The bar owners get nothing out of this, the bartenders pay full price for their food and let’s face it, customers who eat more drink less.

Anyone seen this? Dealt with it in your establishment? Love to hear from  you.

13 comments on “Independent Bar Food Vendors: Good? Bad? Illegal?

  1. It’s the new food truck. Less overhead. All you need is feet. I’ve seen them at Windmill Lounge and Dada very recently. They always tell me they work with a catering company, so the licensing part may be legit.

  2. I was in a bar in Deep Ellum a couple of weeks ago and a young guy came in selling tacos and mac and cheese. They were delicious. I asked if it was legal. He said they had a license. But who knows? I was drunky. I was hungry. I was happy to buy.

  3. I’m the owner of one of these companies that goes out and sells food at bars. We do it out of a code-compliant kitchen and go above and beyond to ensure that our food is high quality and safe. We have multiple regulars that love our food and business model and plan to expand beyond bar sales next year. It’s true that the overhead is lower than a food truck. We thought about getting one, but decided against it. I have created 7 jobs this year through this business and the entire staff is happy and well paid. We also pay the state of Texas every penny of sales tax that is due every three months. I will be frequenting the message board tonight and tomorrow if anyone has any questions. My business partner might chime in as well. -Sam

  4. Thanks, Samuel. That is great to know. We used to have several vendors come to our offices around lunch but they were always from a catering company or restaurant and in uniforms or with menus. Very creative business plan there.

  5. I think that you are fishing in my pond. Period. You pay no rent, and charge the bartenders full price. If your employees are paid so well why do they bother the bartenders for change ? We are not your bank .How do we know that you are bonded and licensed? I have seen several people find your people intrusive upon their private conversations. If they wanted to eat and drink they would have gone somewhere that served both. I have witnessed people leave after eating, thank you for that. You are taking money out of our pocket by fishing in our pond. I also will frequent the message board and the other bartenders may chime in as well.

  6. I appreciate the kind words, Nancy. We want to start bringing lunch to offices some time next year.

  7. If the bars don’t want them they should ask them to leave and don’t come back. I’m sure they would comply with the request. I prefer food with drink and would leave to get food and probably not return.

  8. So let me get this straight, you will continue to bother bartenders for change until they start saying no. You are not bonded nor are the employees. You admit your employees can be intrusive. Do you really believe that some people go to a foodless bar in hopes that they might encounter a “mythical food slinger”?

  9. I’ll ask my staff to no longer ask for change at your bar.

    I’d rather not go into who is and isn’t bonded on the internet.

    In the service industry, anyone and everyone can be intrusive from time to time. Bartenders have approached me and asked how I’m doing at an inopportune moment, ditto waitstaff and management. It happens.

    I know for a fact that people go to bars that we frequent hoping that we’ll show up to sell them our product. I get text messages and calls nightly from customers at various bars asking why one of my guys hasn’t come around in the last hour, that they are hungry, and that they are expecting us.

  10. Somebody sounds a bit grumpy…maybe you should eat something…I know I always feel better after I have something to eat.

  11. @Samuel Crow: “On the flip side, multiple bar patrons have told me personally that they are more likely to go to kitchen-less bars knowing that a taco guy or tamale lady will eventually swing by and rescue them from starvation.”

    Thank you for your courage in rescuing people from starvation.

    And any kitchen-less bar will have a stack of menus from local restos who deliver food. These food channels have been in place for a long time.