Column: Food truck ordinance provides balanceDowntowns are known as ideal locations for entrepreneurs; that’s just one of the reasons that food trucks and carts are a hot topic for downtowns across the country.
By: Kristi Stokes, For the Budgeteer News
Downtowns are known as ideal locations for entrepreneurs; that’s just one of the reasons that food trucks and carts are a hot topic for downtowns across the country.
Duluth recently joined the mix in setting specific standards and regulations for food trucks which, from our standpoint, really helps strike a balance.
As a business organization, surely the Greater Downtown Council is a voice for our bricks-and-mortar tax- paying restaurants. However, we also represent businesses (both large and small in size) that have employees who really see the appeal of a food truck or cart on the street and we even have a food truck operator as a member.
Knowing that, we worked with the City of Duluth, led by Councilor Emily Larson, in researching other communities as well as conducting focus group input sessions here in our community to assist in providing a balanced approach to any ordinance. There are some individuals who do not believe it is fair for our community to allow food trucks into our downtown or within direct competition in any business district. And at the other end of the spectrum, there are some individuals who believe food trucks should be free to set up anywhere, anytime. Our focus group included restaurant owners and managers, food truck owners and downtown employees in hopes of getting broad opinions to further provide framework to the regulations.
We are fortunate in our community that the current mix of food truck/cart operators is courteous and respectful of existing restaurants. They do not encroach upon entrances to restaurants and actually have arrangements for placement near some establishments. This could continue under the new regulations. However, it also prevents a critical mass of trucks from lining up within close proximity to the entrance of an operating kitchen. I have seen this in another community and I have seen the negative impact it has on the vitality of the restaurants in that immediate area. Duluth’s regulations would not prevent a food truck/cart from the restricted area after hours, when a kitchen is not in operation. So, we have learned from the challenges in other communities in hopes of making new opportunities in our community.
We have also seen the positive mark that food trucks can leave on a community. They add to the overall appeal, offerings and walkability, they are fun and they can even assist with improving safety by having more eyes and ears on the street.
By listening to all sides of this issue, we feel confident a balance was struck and it means good things for everyone. It means regulations that were not in place before, but it also welcomes operators who abide by those regulations. Together, we can continue to make our community shine.
Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.