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Thread: Food vendors in the downtown?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Food vendors in the downtown?

    I am working on an ordinance to allow transient food vendors in our downtown area, both non-motorized push carts, stationary trailers, etc. Anyone have any good examples of best practices, thoughts on what not to do, etc.? Do you allow them? Are they restrictied to private/public property, hours of operation, distance from existing bricks/mortar businesses? What about transient merchants of general merchandise/wares - do you allow them or no?

    (I did a search on a few different ttings and nothing came up, so I apologize if there is another thread out there somewhere dedicated to this topic).

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    The City of Appleton, WI has had to face that issue over the past couple of decades in the very active nightlife district in the city's downtown area with several pushcart food vendors that operate during bar rushes. Last year one of those more fancy mobile kitchens started operating on weekdays and during special events in various parts of the city, including the downtown office district. The carts normally operate on the sidewalks within the public right-of-way while the mobile kitchen usually parks in legal spaces along the street (at least downtown). Beside the usual health department concerns, the issue of cart and vendor locations, especially in regards to competition against the area's fixed-location 'brick and mortar' restaurants, had to be resolved.

    Good luck.

    Mike

  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    We allow them in our downtown and other parts of the city. I do not know the history behind or the legislation that has allowed it, though. You can investigate it yourself though - Albuquerque New Mexico.

    My anectdotal perception is that it has been a very good thing. Our downtown has and continues to struggle and these types of businesses have a few positive impacts, IMO. They have a low price point for entering the market (and of course evryone has to be certified and inspected by the Dept. of Health and the Fire Marshal), they generate crowds and triangulation, complimenting other businesses like bars, and, here at least, they have quite a following. People even check the food truck vendor pages where they post where they will be parked on a given night.; And people actually come out to see them. Kind of crazy. I was at an event at my oold job on Friday (an art center) and there were three trucks parked out front in support of their open studio night and it was rockin! There is a place in town that actrively promotes food trucks and has a weekly time when they all gather at their business (an international market).

    I recognize the potential for conflict with restaurants and I am not sure how to resolve that. I do think that they serve different clientelle and the trucks often help create the kinds of crowds that stimiulate additional economic activity, but I wouldn't want them in front of my restaurant either. Here, they must be on public property - a park or the street. They cannot be on the sidewalk either - even the push carts. They need to be at curbside. Or at least I have never seen one on the sidwealk. I do not believe there are any hours of operation restrictions. The ones near bars stay open as long as the bars do. Beyond that, there is no incentive for them to be there. I have seen a few others at an active space by a laundromat and other businesses that operate late into the night. I was by this area recently after midnight and there were two trucks doing swift business. Hours seem to me to be fairly self-enforcing. There isn't much advantage to operating at a time when you can't do any business.

    Good luck!
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    St. Petersburg food truck owners, restaurateurs will try to reach compromise

    ST. PETERSBURG — Food truck owners and restaurateurs will sit down together for the first time Monday to discuss how brick-and-mortar establishments can peacefully coexist with meals on wheels.

    The issue of what's fair and legal has vexed the City of St. Petersburg since gourmet food trucks gained traction in the Tampa Bay area late last year. Because of decades-old legislation, food trucks are virtually barred from serving pedestrians in downtown St. Petersburg except at special events.

    This, food truck owners have said, needs to change.

    But restaurants, fearing a loss of customers and what they perceive to be an unfair business model, have fought back.
    http://www.tampabay.com/news/localgo...cle1222511.ece

    I'll add to this later as time permits.
    Annoyingly insensitive

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  6. #6
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SW MI Planner View post
    ...... Do you allow them? Are they restrictied to private/public property, hours of operation, distance from existing bricks/mortar businesses? What about transient merchants of general merchandise/wares - do you allow them or no?....
    We are making a concerted effort to prohibit this type of land use. It's unfair to the brick and mortar businesses, causes a nuisance to the surrounding neighborhood, and is an eyesore. At least that's the policy direction I've been given.
    Annoyingly insensitive

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ThePinkPlanner's avatar
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    The PCJ did an article on this a few months ago. I won't direct link but if you Google search PCJ and eating on the go, it should pop up. Its decently written for the big issues- losing parking spaces, concerns for other businesses, taxation, etc. I followed the links at the time and read up on Cincinnati trial ordinance. You may wish to look into that one.

    Burlington, VT has more than 20 vendors on its Church Street marketplace, but I don't believe any are trucks. They are meant to be within the traveled walkway and are to be more pedestrian-scaled. They are regulated both publicly and privately, through the City and the Marketplace's organization of businesses.

    Personally, I'm a huge fan. Winter is long in New England and I take every opportunity I can to enjoy an outdoor meal.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    We recently prohibited these types of uses. They start out as mobile but evolve into permanent uses.
    Really adds to the visitor experience to the Gulf Coast beaches, don't you agree?

    Annoyingly insensitive

  9. #9
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Richmond Jake View post
    We recently prohibited these types of uses. They start out as mobile but evolve into permanent uses.
    Really adds to the visitor experience to the Gulf Coast beaches, don't you agree?

    Wow, that's really horrible. It's no wonder your Commission wants to ban them with displays like that.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Wow, that's really horrible. It's no wonder your Commission wants to ban them with displays like that.
    Soshulizts! Hatin' on businesses and freedom!

    ;o)
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  11. #11
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Richmond Jake View post
    We recently prohibited these types of uses. They start out as mobile but evolve into permanent uses.
    Really adds to the visitor experience to the Gulf Coast beaches, don't you agree?

    I don't see it... they need a couple more flags to get my attention.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    nah, a giant inflatable in the public r.o.w.

  13. #13
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I'm confused... exactly what is it they are selling there, RJ?

    I've long been torn on the food trailer issue. They often have an unfair advantage over their brick & mortar counterparts, but I've also seen a few of these function well as start-ups that transition into purchasing a brick & mortar restaurant. I've also seen a few restaurants (including high-end restaurants) using them for creative food experiments.

    In RJ's case, I'd probably drop the hammer and ban them if that's the kind of thing he is ending up with.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  14. #14
    we allow venders. We have one more or less permanent vender downtown that operates two locations (one into the wee hours of the morning).. I believe we require that they have an agreement with a local business for the required dish washing spaces and restroom facilities, which they share with an adjacent restaurant (I'm almost surprised they agree to this, but it's good they do). The downtown vender has a street cart and sells hotdogs/sausages/the like.

    We are re-doing our bus terminal and one of the council members expressed interest in allowing venders outside on the plaza area.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    South Congress in Austin has to be the best arguement in favor of food vendors. I will see if I can post some pictures.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  16. #16
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    We allow them, but we only have 2 of them operating in the Downtown. It's up to me, as the Director, where they are allowed to operate and how many. The one thing we do is only allow them from 11 PM to 3 AM. This helps with the conflict between them and the brick and mortar shops.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  17. #17
    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Richmond Jake View post
    We recently prohibited these types of uses. They start out as mobile but evolve into permanent uses.
    Really adds to the visitor experience to the Gulf Coast beaches, don't you agree?

    The overhead power lines are more of an abomination than anything else I see in the picture. And add that they're in an area prone to hurricanes? Fail.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    One of my client communities does not want them because of the local business climate. They want other businesses in a store front paying taxes too. I think that the City of Grand Rapids Michigan has been looking at this for a while. There has been a push to permit but regulate them from some groups.

    I personally like them.
    Trusting a DC politician with your money is like trusting a hungry dog with a raw steak.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Mobile vendor vs. Permanent Vendor

    I think that whole argument about mobile vendors have an unfair advantage over brick and mortars misses the point. Look, if all you want is a quick bite on the go you don't to have a site down meal and if you want a sit down meal you don't want a mobile vendor. If the B&Ms were thinking straight they'd want plenty of vendors around to build up an instant critical mass of restaurants. The more restaurants, the more choices, the more people will come. If you've got just a couple of restaurants in an area folks will come down for the express purpose of visiting your restaurant. If you've got a ton of choices everyone comes down. My wife and I will head to the next town over not knowing exactly which restaurant we want to eat at but we know there are about a dozen to choose from; we'll figure it out when we get there, see who's got available seating, etc. In my City's downtown there are maybe two restaurants worth traveling for - pizza and a Thai. All things being equal, I'll head into the other downtown just because I've got choices.

    This does not in any way answer the original question, I know. Sorry - but we don't allow mobile vendors either except for ice cream trucks in residential neighborhoods.
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
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  20. #20
    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    I have to disagree with some of the above sentiment. We were faced with a similar situation here where we plan for a smaller town that has a university. When you are trying to revitalize downtown areas than the bottom line is that you need commercial that is invested in brick and mortar in the area and pays rent. There's a nearby park here, and of course the university that they can vend at. If and when the downtown area is more or less at full occupancy in downtown then I think you can move forward with permitting more mobile food vendors.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Doberman View post
    I have to disagree with some of the above sentiment. We were faced with a similar situation here where we plan for a smaller town that has a university. When you are trying to revitalize downtown areas than the bottom line is that you need commercial that is invested in brick and mortar in the area and pays rent. There's a nearby park here, and of course the university that they can vend at. If and when the downtown area is more or less at full occupancy in downtown then I think you can move forward with permitting more mobile food vendors.
    I'd recommend traveling to a couple areas that have a thriving food truck culture to change your mind.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    I'd recommend traveling to a couple areas that have a thriving food truck culture to change your mind.
    When I worked in Birmingham the food truck market was thriving. They would pull into parking lots where hospital employees parked and set up shop there during lunch time around the downtown area. Birmingham actually has a waiting list for food trucks which I believe is smart as you don't want an unmitigated number crowding parking lots and roadways.

    I may should rephrase my post. One of the cities we plan for is called Montevallo. The town is roughly 3K and the student population is roughly 3K meaning that most months out of the years there's about 6 thousand people there. They recently shifted from a private to public university. As such, you would expect the town is poised for growth being that tuition rates for the university are now lower. The university is connected (walking distance) to the downtown core area. Whereas the downtown area has vacant retail and commercial space and is a revival project, I do not feel like it's wise to permit food trucks in core area until most of the commercial space is rented out. What we are looking at currently is allowing Food trucks to visit the campus to include the sports areas and dorms, along with the nearby park which is also in walking distance from the university and downtown.

    I am not against food trucks, but 90% of what we deal with in planning is grey area and not black and white. I feel like where you have core areas you are attempting to fill vacancies in you are doing a disservice by permitting a food truck near where a brick and mortar restaurant could be.

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