Food truck dispute brewing in Lakeville

City Council to consider food trucks

A food truck disagreement is brewing between neighboring business owners in downtown Lakeville.

Lakeville City Council members are considering options for food trucks to occasionally operate in areas throughout Lakeville after Angry Inch Brewing owners Josh Hebzynski and Jon Erickson requested city ordinances change to allow them to invite food trucks to sell outside their brewery some weekends year-round.

Erickson said at the Feb. 28 City Council work session hosting an occasional food truck would attract more people downtown and benefit all surrounding retailers.

He said they would seek out a variety of food trucks that offer different meal options than what is available at neighboring restaurants.

Marty Richie, owner of Heavy Metal Grill Restaurant and the food truck of the same name, is opposed to the proposal.

Richie said a food truck will negatively affect his brick-and-mortar business, located next to Angry Inch Brewing in the same building on Holyoke Avenue.

He told Sun Thisweek a food truck is cheaper to operate and the owners have no stake in the community, do not pay property taxes and do not have multiple employees to consider.

Erickson said they had a food truck outside their business on 208th Street on Feb. 2 and his patrons enjoyed British meat pies not offered at surrounding restaurants. He said if the city permits food trucks, they would continue to seek trucks offering different fare than is now available.

said allowing the trucks would bring more business to downtown Lakeville.

“Food trucks themselves tend to have pretty good followings of people who will follow them from city to city,” Erickson said.

Richie said the night Angry Inch had a food truck parked by his business, his restaurant was not called for a single food delivery to Angry Inch Brewing, when they typically deliver 15 to 20 times per night.

He said the lost business affects him and his employees, including servers who usually make tips by delivering food next door.

Erickson said they are not trying to take business away from any of their retail neighbors.

“We’re just looking for flexibility to have them down on the weekends,” Erickson said. “We don’t want to have something there every single day.”

At the meeting, Lakeville Community Development Director Dave Olson said the city does not currently have an ordinance that addresses food trucks, although downtown is littered with those types of temporary businesses during events like Pan-O-Prog, the city’s two-week summer festival.

Erickson presented several letters from patrons in favor of the idea.

Lakeville resident and Angry Inch patron Andy Zetzman said food trucks will provide more choice for consumers, calling them “a staple at local breweries ever since the craft beer boom began.”

Aaron Shand wrote he and his wife live south of the cities but work in Minneapolis where “there are more than enough food trucks AND restaurants.”

He said they spend money on both options based on what sounds good to them depending on what they are “in the mood” for eating.

Don Seiler, co-owner of Lakeville Brewing Co., which is located adjacent to Angry Inch Brewing and also serves food, spoke in favor of the proposal on behalf of himself and the other owners.

“We encourage the city to find a way to come (up) with the regulation and means to allow that to happen,” he said.

Seiler said they want to see downtown Lakeville thrive and believes more variety available to consumers will draw crowds.

“Anyone who’s done any basic marketing knows, particularly in food and entertainment, the more choices, options and variety you provide a single destination, the more likely people will choose to go there,” Seiler said.

He added they do not feel any threat to their business and estimated there is about $7.5 million spent outside Lakeville on food and entertainment that could be spent inside the city.

Seiler said their business had no negative impact on the night there was a food truck parked adjacent to their business.

“There was a lot of positive buzz,” Seiler said.

He noted there was also an uptick in social medial presence.

“We noticed a publicity bump for us,” Seiler said. “I think that’s a good thing. It think that’s good for all downtown Lakeville.”

Richie was unable to attend the meeting, so his girlfriend Lisa Caulfield read and explained Richie’s letter outlining his concerns.

Caulfield said food trucks are a great marriage with breweries, just not when they are located next to brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Caulfield said they take their food truck to breweries where there are not other food options, calling it “common respect” to avoid parking a food truck in front of established restaurants.

Richie – who said starting a food truck cost him about $60,000 while the building was a $250,000 investment and about 70-80 hours a week of his time – amplified the point in a Feb. 23 Facebook post.

Richie posted of picture of his food truck parked in front of City Council Member Brian Wheeler’s restaurant, Baldy’s BBQ, and facetiously announcing he was going to be “slinging phillies” in front of it.

“Naaa just kidding!” the post said. “You know we wouldn’t do something like that.”

Caulfield asked council members to consider how a coffee shop business owner would feel if a coffee truck parked in front of it, or an ice cream truck parked in front of Dairy Delite or if a beer truck parked outside Angry Inch and sold beer for $2 each.

“All these examples sound pretty silly,” Caulfield said. “But it is our reality. We need to respect each other’s businesses.”

Caulfield said cities are taking steps to protect brick-and-mortar businesses across the country, including instituting limitations to the length of time and location food trucks may operate.

She said if food trucks are allowed to park outside of a brick-and-mortar restaurant, they will end up closing, the trucks will move on and downtown will be left with empty retail space and vacancy signs in the windows. Wheeler, who also owns a Baldy’s BBQ food truck, called the situation a catch-22.

He agreed food trucks “create buzz” and draw people, but said they bring competition to established restaurants without the cost of owning and operating a brick-and-mortar business.

“People have invested lots of money into their restaurant,” Wheeler said. “Lots of time, lots of hours and employ more than two people. They employ lots of people and (they are) competing against that.”

Council Member Luke Hellier said food trucks could help “creative vibrancy” downtown and draw new and different people there.

He said he also wants to be sensitive to brick-and-mortar businesses and consider how trucks would affect residential neighborhoods.

Council Member Bart Davis said if an ordinance is created, they need to be mindful of constituents and ensure it is applied uniformly across the city without favoring one business over another.

Council Member Colleen Labeau said she sees both sides, but also expressed concern for the established business owner.

“As someone who owns a business and knows what kind of taxes you pay, and the what kind of expenses you pay for brick-and-mortar, it’s a tough one,” she said,

Mayor Doug Anderson asked staff to provide the council an array of options that could include a parameters of where and when food trucks could be allowed to operate.

“Maybe there’s a way we could get into this and not open it up the whole way, because I do hear the concerns,” Anderson said.