Downtown Lakeville food truck vote expected June 5

Proposed ordinance requires per-event permit

After months of debate, Lakeville City Council members agreed during a May 22 work session to alter city code to allow mobile food units, motorized or not, to operate in downtown parking lots.

A vote on the ordinance is expected at the council’s May 5 meeting.

Under the proposed ordinance, food trucks may operate in downtown parking lots between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and federal holidays, with written permission of the property owner and a permit from the city.

Permits are proposed to cost $50 per day and business owners are required to carry at least $2 million in liability insurance coverage.

Requested by Jon Erickson, owner and operator of Angry Inch Brewing, the ordinance has been strongly opposed by Marty Richie, owner of Heavy Metal Grill.

Richie has argued against the ordinance numerous times, citing concern about the food trucks depleting business from brick-and-mortar restaurants downtown.

Erickson and supporters have said the food trucks would serve as a marketing tool, drawing people downtown who otherwise might not come and thereby benefiting downtown businesses.

The two businesses share a building, and Council members have attempted compromise by limiting days and hours by which mobile food trucks are allowed to operate downtown.

To test the ordinance out, council members indicated a preference for careful implementation and support trying out the fairly restrictive food truck criteria, specific to downtown, this summer. They will review how it is working out early next year, then make any necessary adjustments to the ordinance based on unanticipated situations that may occur.

Council Member Brian Wheeler, a food truck owner himself, advocated for an annual permit as opposed to the per-time permit.

He said many times food truck operators are called in at the last minute and there would not be time to obtain a one-time permit.

He did not get enough support from other council members to make the change.

Erickson requested an opportunity to invite food trucks during a special event occurring on a different day from the days specified, such as an anniversary celebration.

The city already has an administrative permitting process for special events, like a tent sale or block bash, and Mayor Doug Anderson said the process would be available for those situations.

Wheeler also questioned the city’s requirement for a $2 million insurance liability policy, stating that amount is double what he usually pays

“I don’t think I’ve ever been asked for a $2 million policy ever,” Wheeler said.

Council Member Colleen LaBeau, a Realtor, said the $2 million coverage requirement is much more common now.

Lakeville Mayor Doug Anderson noted there are many residential property owners downtown, as well, and cited concerns about the number of food trucks that could be in downtown Lakeville.

“I don’t want to have downtown Lakeville become a food truck haven,” Anderson said. “I mean, that’s not what I envision downtown Lakeville to be.”

He said he supports “opening up opportunities for periodic food trucks experiences” to enhance the excitement and variety found downtown while enhancing brick-and-mortar businesses.

Council Member Bart Davis agreed, stating he likes the “baby-step” approach the council is taking.

He said if the change proves problematic, they may tweak the ordinance.

LaBeau also cited appreciation for the careful implementation, noting that if things go well it will serve as a strong indication of how the city can go forward with it in the future.