Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 14, 2013

Editorial: Food trucks will help build reputation

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Traverse City residents whose appetites and wallets have helped fuel the city’s rise as a foodie haven will have more chances than ever to savor new and different cuisine.

The city commission last week approved a proposal to allow food trucks to ply their wares on city streets and parking lots, ensuring that there are going to be some new and different food options in the city this summer.

The city commission voted to allow up to two mobile food vendors to operate year-round in four city parking lots and on State Street between Union and Pine streets. The designated parking lots near downtown are at the volleyball courts, the Union Street dam, the U.S. Post Office and the farmers market site. Vendors cannot operate while the market is in progress.

The city will also allow as many as two trucks on some streets near Northwestern Michigan College, the Civic Center, Munson Medical Center, and some of the city’s larger parks. The trucks can open for business starting May 16.

The owner of a new bar planned for the former Jack’s Market said he plans to permanently host at least five food trucks.

Vendors will pay $1,225 annually to be able to park on both city and private property or $725 to park on city property only or $500 to locate on private property only. Space will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The vote came after months of often loud debate about whether it was fair to let food trucks compete with established restaurants that pay thousands in city property taxes, rent and utilities to do business here.

Nick McAllister, owner of House of Doggs on Union Street, worries his business will take a hit in the summer — his most critical season.

“It’s a lot of rent and taxes and everything just to be in these prime locations downtown,” he said.

He’s right, of course And even a $1,200 permit for an all-access food truck permit doesn’t totally level the playing field.

But an increased emphasis on good food at good prices can also help everyone in the business. Traverse City has established a growing reputation as a food destination, with a steady stream of new places opening up in recent years. Competition and choice have helped create buzz, and that buzz has helped raise awareness and build an audience; and that audience will be here when the food trucks roll out of town this fall.