BY KATHY GIBBONS
Say no to food trucks.
That was the message from nearly everyone who spoke tonight from a crowd of about 80 who turned out for a Traverse City Downtown Development Authority study session on where to allow mobile food units in downtown Traverse City — if anywhere.
The city commission had asked the DDA to weigh in on where it feels food trucks and other portable food vendors should be located, though it’s still up to the city to make a final decision on if food trucks will be allowed in the city and, if so, under what parameters. DDA board members had decided to seek public opinion. In the meantime, a recommendation has been drafted by some DDA board members that would prohibit mobile food units along Front Street between Boardman and Union, and within 20 feet of any intersection.
Most who spoke — many downtown restaurant owners — echoed the sentiments of Peter Makin, owner of Brilliant Books downtown. He said food trucks tend to operate only in the summer and take business away from brick and mortar eateries that pay hefty costs to stay in business and rely on higher summer volume to survive in the off season.
Bruce Rogers, longtime downtown Traverse City businessman and property owner, said it would be a mistake to ban food trucks. Instead, he recommended, they should be concentrated in an area near the river — a concept he said he saw work in a European city similar to Traverse City that was not only successful in its own right, but enhanced customer traffic for the entire business community.
Simon Joseph, owner of the Roaming Harvest food truck with commercial space at 2819 Cass, said allowing food trucks gives entrepreneurs a chance to develop their products and brand before taking the leap into a fixed location. He’s also involved in a group called TC Street Food, which has garnered more than 600 “Likes” on Facebook since the page was launched in late January. A petition favoring food trucks downtown has also garnered more than 500 signatures.
After the public comments, DDA Board Chair Stephen Constantin asked for permission to work with fellow board member Chuck Judson and DDA staff to draft some alternative recommendations. The DDA meets Friday morning at 8 a.m. at the Governmental Center and will take up the issue then.
Look for an updated report in Thursday’s print edition and online at www.record-eagle.com.