Food carts and street performers in downtown Elgin? Some say both should be encouraged to attract more people, especially along the riverfront.
Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin Executive Director Deirdre White said she recently approached city staff inquiring about that.
"We have that art buzz and we have the (Riverside Drive) promenade. Wouldn't it be great to have a popcorn kiosk or an ice cream cart along the riverfront?" she said. "Adding those urban elements would solidify us as 'the city in the suburbs.' "
The association is working on establishing a First Fridays series during which businesses stay open late once a month, she said.
"We want to see a lot of people out and about; we want to see the street performers out there," she said.
Street performers, also known as buskers, are allowed in Elgin as long as they don't impede pedestrians or the flow of traffic and don't actively solicit donations, Assistant City Manger Rick Kozal said at a special meeting of the city council's committee of the whole Wednesday.
Placing a hat to collect donations is OK, Kozal added.
"Busker" comes from the Spanish "buscar," which means "to seek."
Mobile food carts are not allowed in Elgin, but the city council could change that by implementing licenses and possibly restricting them to certain geographic areas, Kozal said.
Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger said that would be a way to bring microbusinesses to downtown Elgin. She also said she supports street performers.
"Any downtown that has to be a place where people go has to have some street life," she said. "This is an easy, simple way to do that."
Brad Bohner, public health coordinator for the city, said he gets numerous calls from people who want to operate ice cream carts and trucks.
The city allows temporary food vendor permits for carnivals and a seasonal concession stand at Festival Park.
Councilman Terry Gavin cautioned about competition.
"We have a lot of restaurants that are struggling, so I think that before we start peddling food from carts in the downtown area, we better talk to them," he said.
White said she's already broached the topic with downtown businesses.
"The general consensus is, 'If you're bringing people to downtown Elgin, it's good for my business,' " she said.
Local eateries could also operate their own food carts, Councilwoman Tish Powell added.