Food truck ordinance passes in Lakeville

Jon Erickson hopes regulations will loosen

The Lakeville City Council unanimously approved an ordinance June 5 allowing food trucks to operate downtown, but the business owner requesting the change expressed disappointment with the result.

Angry Inch Brewing owner Jon Erickson said the amount of restrictions included in the ordinance will severely limit the number of trucks able to set up in downtown Lakeville.

“It’s not what we wanted,” Erickson said. “I feel they’re putting too many restrictions on it and it’s not going to allow us to get any food trucks to come down here.”

The ordinance allows one food truck per parking lot in the downtown district on federal holidays and Fridays and Saturdays between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Food truck owners must apply for a $50 per day license and carry at least $2 million worth of liability insurance for injury and $2 million against property damage.

Erickson also said it also took the council so long to make a decision on an ordinance, many of the most popular food trucks are already booked up for the summer.

“So, we’ll have food trucks, but it won’t be many of them,” Erickson said.

At the City Council’s May 22 work session, City Council Member Colleen LaBeau had urged the council to take action on the issue at the June meeting to accommodate the business’s schedule and they did, but Erickson said many food truck operators already have schedules set.

He said they are left with less-popular food trucks which will not have an established following to create a buzz and build interest to draw more people and increase business in downtown Lakeville.

“If you get food trucks down here that nobody knows, it’s not benefiting downtown,” Erickson said.

Council members have discussed and listened to debate about food trucks for months.

While Erickson said food trucks downtown would light up social media and generate traffic to help all businesses downtown, neighboring restaurant owner Marty Richie expressed opposition to the proposal.

Richie said the increased competition would detract customers from his Heavy Metal Grill restaurant and others downtown, slowing sales and ultimately shuttering the established businesses, leaving downtown empty.

City Council members agreed to implement a “walk, not run” approach to test how allowing food trucks would work for all.

Erickson said by the end, the restrictions slowed traction on the issue to a “crawl.”

Richie, also a food truck owner, said he respects the City Council’s decision in passing the ordinance but agreed with Erickson’s assessment of how food truck operators would react to the ordinance.

“I think the decision or the ordinance they put in is food-truck repellent,” Richie said. “I don’t think they’re going to get any food trucks to come in.”

Richie said an ethical food truck business would not operate in front of a brick-and-mortar restaurant on a regular basis and thereby “stealing their business.”

He added people will not drive from Northeast Minneapolis to visit one food truck, but if the city allowed one huge rally, food truck fans would show up in droves and benefit all the downtown.

“Make a huge event out of it,” Richie said. “Don’t just bring in one that’s going to drip business dry.”

Richie said if the City Council really wanted to have food trucks operating in downtown Lakeville, it should have met with multiple food truck owners and learn how their businesses work.

At the meeting, Council Member Luke Hellier said he talked to several food truck owners and all expressed the ability to meet the ordinance requirements and were comfortable with the daily permit cost and no option for an annual permit.

“I think we’ve got something that’s going to put us in the right direction, as I said, a jumping-off point to see where we can go,” Hellier said.

Council Member Brian Wheeler also owns a restaurant, Baldy’s BBQ, and operates a food truck of the same name. He told Sun Thisweek he plans to bring his truck downtown at some point.

Council Member Bart Davis called the ordinance “a step forward.”

“We’re making the initiative to see how it goes and we have the ability to go back in 2017 and make adjustments that may be deemed necessary,” Davis said.

Erickson said they do not have any food trucks lined up to come downtown, but they hope to bring in a truck to help them celebrate their one-year anniversary July 29.

He said he would have liked to see an option for an annual permit instead of a one-time permit that causes food truck vendors a lot more work and hassle.

Erickson said he is happy they are going to be able to have food trucks, and he is hopeful that restrictions will ease as time goes on.

His father, Chris Erickson, attended the council meeting and expressed his appreciation to the council for their deliberation.

“I just hope that you will see and take note of the positive things that Angry Inch is doing to contribute to the welfare of this city and promote business,” he said.

In an interview, Mayor Doug Anderson said he is pleased with how the council worked together to come up with a starting point.

“We said we wanted to take baby steps and didn’t want to jump into this hook, line and sinker,” Anderson said. “Some council members actually did talk to other food truck owners, so I feel comfortable that I think we did some reasonable work. That doesn’t mean that some people won’t disagree with that, but I hope that, particularly Mr. Erickson, I hope that he can see a pathway that with some appropriate planning he can accomplish some things that he couldn’t accomplish before.”