City trying to digest on all sides of food truck issue

Last week's food truck meeting

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

A downtown restaurant owner suggested last week that Bowling Green focus more on keeping its existing restaurants busy than on bringing in new competition.

During the fifth public meeting of the City Council committee working on food truck regulations, Garrett Jones, the owner of Reverend’s at 130 E. Wooster St., said some brick and mortar restaurants are struggling now.

Rather than the city working so hard to come up with provisions for food trucks, the community should patronize the brick and mortar restaurants that are already here, he advised.

“Instead of bringing more competition, you should support local businesses as it is,” Jones said.

City Council member Sandy Rowland said food trucks have helped restaurants in other communities.

“More people go out to eat when there’s more to choose from,” she said.

But Jones said the downtown parking is already difficult enough without adding more congestion.

“I’ve got customers who tell me they drove around 15 minutes looking for a spot,” he said.

Bowling Green resident Kathy Pereira de Almeida asked if it might be helpful to allow the downtown brick and mortar restaurants to set up some tables outside on the sidewalk.

But Jones said that would require restaurants to hire more staff and would be a strain on their kitchens.

“I was just thinking it might satisfy some restaurants downtown,” Pereira de Almeida said.

The council committee working on the food truck issue – made up of Bill Herald, John Zanfardino and Rowland – continued looking at questions that must be resolved.

  • Should the food truck rules cover food vendors and farmers selling produce from trucks?
  • Should the types and size of vehicles be restricted?
  • Where can the vehicles sit?
  • How close can they be to restaurants?
  • Can they be on residential streets, along Main Street, along Wooster?
  • What hours will they be allowed to operate?
  • What type of noise restrictions are needed?
  • How will litter be handled?
  • Can they set up seating for eating areas?

“We don’t want structure to get in the way of creativity. And we don’t want creativity to get in the way of structure,” Herald said.

The goal is to perform a “balancing act” so the city allows food trucks and retains a vibrant downtown, he said.

The food trucks must pass inspections by the Wood County Health Department, and income tax collection provisions are already in place. The mobile vendors can have their licenses with the city revoked if they violate noise or litter regulations, Herald said.

Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said she had met with the health department staff and learned that if food trucks are licensed in other counties, that permit is valid throughout Ohio. No additional fee can be charged in Wood County.

The next food truck meeting will be Monday at 6 p.m., in council chambers.

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