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Food (trucks) for thought

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To support changes to Rochester City rules, local food trucks and food truck supporters come together for a food truck lunch event held Wednesday at Kutzky Market. Attendees had the opportunity to voice support for (or opposition to) changing existing rules as it relates to food trucks. Adam Ferrari, of Rochester, right, helps facilitate the conversation.
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Solutions to Rochester's food truck dilemma were offered almost as readily as orders for tacos, pizza and other mobile fare at a Food Truck Summit hosted Wednesday outside Kutzky Market.

Hungry patrons packed the Kutzky Market parking lot on Sixth Street Northwest from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., both to have lunch and to participate in an open forum discussing the city of Rochester's current ordinance regulating mobile food vendors.

Adam Ferrari, director of Design Rochester, collected comments at the Charette Happens truck, where the city's ordinance language and zoning maps were posted. The comments will be compiled and published on the Kutzky Market and Design Rochester websites, and emailed to city officials, Ferrari said.

Most comments and discussion at Wednesday's event supported the presence of food trucks. When and where food trucks should operate was open to a wider range of opinions.

"I'd say 90 percent of it has been positive. Ten percent has been not necessarily negative but has concerns, in general, for being equitable," Ferrari said.

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One idea that gained traction was to find a location, or several locations, in the city where food trucks could be allowed to operate during set hours.

"I think a great middle ground would be having some kind of a parking ramp or a parking lot that these guys could kind of congregate around during lunch time or supper time, and it would be great for everybody else because everybody would know where to go," said Jordan Bell, executive chef at Forager Brewery.

"It would be great if there was a rotation that went on so you had a different option constantly," added attendee Matt Nold.

The idea of a designated space for food trucks was appealing to Jason Brehmer, co-owner of BB's Pizzeria .

"I think it should be a collaborative deal between the business owners and the city to find a common area where everybody can be together," Brehmer said.

The city's ordinance is somewhat prohibitive to vendors who prefer to operate on city streets, Ferrari said. That isn't an issue for Brehmer, who said he was not interested in parking on public streets.

"I'm not for me being able to pull up and plug a meter. I don't think that is a viable solution, " he said. "I think there's enough spots around town that, at certain times of the day, could be designated as a food truck stop for a certain time that everybody could be at and not interrupt anybody in the city."

A few comments were directed at amending the city's ordinance to open up public areas to mobile vendors.

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"I think (the regulations) are a bit ridiculous," attendee Sue Lee said. "I look at downtown Minneapolis and (food trucks) open from like 9 in the morning, I think, until 2 in the afternoon. They have no problem making it fit in their big city, so I think it's a bit old school to still have the regulations this city does."

Ryan Balow, who is considering establishing his own food truck business, also agreed the city's regulations should be updated.

"The ordinance right now is black and white … but times have changed and I think we need to go in a new direction," Balow said.

Comments that expressed concerns with food trucks centered on the fairness of mobile vendors competing with fixed-location restaurants and shops, the cleanliness of outdoor vendors and possible traffic complications.

Some people said that they feel competition between vendors and restaurants was equitable for both, and desirable for patrons who would have a greater variety of dining options.

"I think if you've got a quality product at a fair price, both the brick and mortars and the trucks are going to make a fair go of it," Lee said.

Nold agreed, saying he did not have concern that mobile food vendors would drive restaurants out of business.

"Some days you're going to feel like grabbing a taco from a food truck, and the next day, you might want something upscale," Nold said.

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7d77c79f9cd119a19cce023bd64c9b30.jpg
To support changes to Rochester City rules, local food trucks and food truck supporters come together for a food truck lunch event held Wednesday at Kutzky Market. Attendees had the opportunity to voice support for (or opposition to) changing existing rules as it relates to food trucks.

Related Topics: FOOD
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