Food truck ordinance may loosen

City officials want to make it easier for food trucks to set up shop in farmers markets by eliminating some requirements.

Food truck manager Becky Ramirez of Hot Indian Foods hands Dawn Knutson her tikka rice bowl on Thursday outside of Minneapolis City Hall. Hot Indian Foods was rated the Best Food Truck in the Twin Cities in 2015.

Image by Melissa Scharf

Food truck manager Becky Ramirez of Hot Indian Foods hands Dawn Knutson her tikka rice bowl on Thursday outside of Minneapolis City Hall. Hot Indian Foods was rated the “Best Food Truck” in the Twin Cities in 2015.

by Nick Wicker

When food trucks and farmers markets want to work together in Minneapolis, a three-step licensing process stands in the way.
But if two City Council members get their way, those requirements could disappear, making more space for food trucks at the markets and around Minneapolis.
Ward 13 Councilwoman Linea Palmisano and Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon proposed a change to a city ordinance on Friday that would make it cheaper and easier for vendors and farmers markets to team up. 
The proposed amendment would eliminate a required farmers market license for food trucks, and would let them park closer together to take up less space, Palmisano said.
Looser restrictions on the distance between each food truck would extend to the entire city, she said. 
“Food trucks are some of our smallest of small businesses,” Palmisano said. “I really want to remove any of the red tape and barriers.”
Libby Wyrum, Linden Hills Farmers Market manager, said she reached out to Palmisano in June 2014 to address the issue.
Because of existing restrictions, Wyrum said, she had trouble finding truck 
owners with the necessary licensing; the four she knew could sell treats at her Sunday market were almost always booked. 
Vendors pay $300 annually to the city for a farmers market license and undergo an inspection for the paperwork performed by the city in addition to their own assessments, she said.
Though the fee was intended to cover additional inspection costs, Palmisano said it’s superfluous next to required annual state and city check-ups.
Because some trucks perceive farmers market spaces as full-up with food truck regulars, they avoid the burden of an extra license altogether, Wyrum said.
“I took over the farmers market and it just seemed silly to me that they were asked to be inspected twice over the course of their season,” Wyrum said. “It seemed a bit onerous to have to ask somebody who is entirely built for mobile vending to acquire yet another license.”
Alec Duncan, owner of Potter’s Pasties in Southeast Como, runs a food truck in the University of Minnesota area. He said he also participates in markets in the metro area, like the Northeast Minneapolis Farmers Market.
Duncan said licenses slowed the start of his business and hurt his sales to local farmers markets. 
“I’ve already got three grand worth of licenses, how many … more licenses do you want me to buy just to come sell?” Duncan said. “The farmers markets I chose, we were OK with the licenses I had.”
He said he visits the market at the McNamara Alumni Center every summer because he prefers the shorter season, which runs from  July to October.
The proposed change would also allow food trucks to park closer together, Palmisano said, removing the distance requirement altogether.
“Most farmers markets don’t have much space; we’re at like 2,000 square feet,” Wyrum said. “We need to cram them all together.”
Duncan said parking closer together can benefit trucks that serve complementary foods, like meat and vegetarian options. 
Still, he said the change has its drawbacks. If his pasty stand were to park right next to a tater tot truck, for example, he said he would expect fewer sales. 
The Council’s Community Development and Regulatory Services Committee will vote Tuesday on whether to send the amendment to the full City Council next week.