For a beach town boasting a historic boardwalk, buying street food in Santa Cruz is a much more elusive task than you would think. As restaurants, bars, and even the boardwalk itself have reopened recently, hoping to recover from COVID-related economic losses, street vendors have been left out.

In the past year, street vendors in Santa Cruz have all but vanished due to an executive order from the city manager’s office banning street vending last August. Soon, that will be subject to change.

The city decided that it will begin to license six spots along Beach Street where vendors will be given official permits. The application process opened April 5 on the City of Santa Cruz website and will close on Apr. 26.

“COVID is really changing the way we do things normally,” said Ralph Dimarucut, the city’s principal management analyst. “This is a pilot project we are designing to ensure health and safety during the time of the pandemic, but we’re also looking at it in the long term of how we can create a safe space and environment on Beach Street for both tourists and visitors and locals and vendors.”

Dimarucut said the city is currently working with Community Bridges, a local nonprofit organization that runs community-based outreach programs, to facilitate the application process and ensure that as many non-English dominant speakers as possible can apply.

If the city receives more applications than the number of allotted spaces, a random lottery will determine who is allowed to vend. Accepted applicants will be notified of their status on April 29.

Once the application period closes and six vendors are selected, street vendors without permits will face the possibility of getting ticketed misdemeanors. Dimarucut said that city officials have already tried to make contact with vendors who have returned to Beach Street, explaining the new permitting system as well as the aforementioned consequences of not abiding by it.

The permits took effect May 1 and last until Christmas, after which a new cycle of applications will begin.

“Our priority is really the health and safety of everyone,” Dimarucut said. “We’re trying to balance that with creating opportunities for vendors to make a living.”

With the city’s decision to allow limited street vending, and as vaccine eligibility opens up April 15, Santa Cruz residents will not only be able to enjoy the Boardwalk this summer, but also be able to buy and share food from a local vendor once again.

CHP is publishing this story during the week of June 7 as part of a backlog on unpublished content from spring 2021. The article was originally written on April 14.