food trucks

Rosie’s ready to serve comfort food to BG’s late night crowd

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Rosie’s Rolling Chef’s journey to a spot in Bowling Green streets hasn’t been easy. The food truck version of the Toledo restaurant had to contend with long city council debates and a 180-slide Power Point presentation, and just when it was ready to launch the sub zero weather set in. On Thursday, Feb. 7 though Rosie’s will take up its spot at 405 E. Wooster. The parcel  was a gas station, then a car lot, and now will host Rosie’s Rolling Chef every weekend. And if local diners show their interest by patronizing the food truck, maybe something more. Not that Rosie’s is a stranger to Bowling Green. It’s been here for Firefly Nights and a couple Black Swamp Arts Festivals, and Barone was a regular at city council meetings as the city’s food truck ordinance was debated and finally approved in June.  But this is a more regular arrangement, one that owner Phil Barone hopes may even evolve into a physical restaurant. It all depends on how well the hot mama bread, lobster Mac and cheese, lobster bisque, and grilled lamb chops sell. Bowling Green, he said, was one of the last places in the area to open up to food trucks. He’s wanted to do business here for years. He went to Bowling Green State University as did his wife. He graduated in 1978. Though he first went into real estate after graduation, he and his brothers Mike and John  opened Rosie’s in Toledo 36 years ago. The restaurant was named for their mother, the matriarch of the family and chief counselor for the restaurant. She was born in Sicily and immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island, and under the gaze of the Statue of Liberty, when she was 5 years old. “We just lost her about a year ago,” Barone said. She died at 98 last Feb. 4. “We knew how to eat her food,” he said, but preparing it was another matter. “She always made food exciting,’ he said. But the recipes were all in her head, “a pinch of this, pinch of that.” Chef Eric Kish worked with her to tweak them “so we have them down where we want them.” Those recipes found their way to the streets seven years ago. Barone said his brother Frank, a plastic surgeon, had just moved back to the area from Seattle. He took Phil aside and had two words of advice: “food trucks.” He was sure Rosie’s cuisine would be a hit. While it may be with diners, with city officials, not so much. “It’s been a fight the whole way,” Barone said. Photo by Suzanne Myrice 2018/provided Barone knew better than to go into battle alone. He founded the Toledo Food Truck Association, and hired legal counsel, to wage that fight municipality by municipality. “You can’t have laws to curb competition,” Barone said. “The purpose was to get food trucks together so we’re not fighting each other. So we can work together and share good gigs.” Barone practices what he preaches. He noted that a couple other trucks have beat him to the punch in Bowling Green, setting up in nearby lots. The customers for one truck park in the lot he leases from Bob Mauer.  He envisions…

‘Food Truck Fridays’ offers change of menu to county workers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   “Food Truck Fridays” will soon be giving some Wood County employees a reason to leave their packed lunches at home. Who wants the standard fare of peanut butter and jelly, when they can dine on barbecue, chili and cornbread, or hot dogs with all types of toppings? When Bowling Green City Council passed an ordinance earlier this year allowing food trucks in the city, it got some county employees thinking. Staff at Wood County Job and Family Services, on East Gypsy Lane Road, approached Maricarol Torsok-Hrabovsky, special projects manager at their office, about arranging for food trucks to visit during lunch time. “We’re pretty much out where there’s not a lot of food actually,” Torsok-Hrabovsky said. She checked with the county commissioners, who had no objections. She called other county offices in the East Gypsy Lane complex – like Wood Lane, the Sheriff’s Office, and Wood County Health Department – and found out that their employees were also hungry for a change of pace. “We got interest from several of them. So we decided to try it out,” Torsok-Hrabovsky said. Then she talked with Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator for Bowling Green, about local vendors. Fawcett directed her to the Wood County Health Department. Torsok-Hrabovsky quickly found out what food truck vendors are in demand. “Food trucks book really, really fast,” she said. With all the fairs and festivals, “they have their summers already planned.” But she was able to reserve a few vendors – creating “Food Truck Fridays” on July 27 and Aug. 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The trucks will set up in the lot behind the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. The Food Truck Friday on July 27 will feature Country Lane BBQ and The Little Stand on the Prairie. Country Lane BBQ specializes in pulled pork “sundaes.” The Little Stand on the Prairie’s menu includes grilled bologna, mashed potato bowls, chili and cornbread, plus strawberries with homemade biscuits and whipped cream. “That was the big sell,” Torsok-Hrabovsky said. The Food Truck Friday on Aug. 17 will feature Country Lane BBQ, The Little Stand on the Prairie, and Weenie Dawgs. Weenie Dawgs sells hot dogs with all types of toppings, plus walking tacos. Many of the county employees at the East Gypsy Lane complex grab a bag of fast food and bring it back to work for lunch. Torsok-Hrabovsky is hoping they will want to change up their menu. “Maybe they will walk on over,” she said. Once the summer is over, Torsok-Hrabovsky would like to continue the Food Truck Fridays once a month. “Maybe we could get a few more vendors,” she said.

BG passes food truck ordinance – time to get cookin’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Phil Barone has already scouted out a great place for his food truck. And after Bowling Green City Council’s action Monday evening, he may finally get to set up shop. City Council voted in favor of the new mobile food vendor ordinance and declared an emergency to get things cooking. “We’re getting into good weather and want to get things moving,” said council member Bill Herald, who led the food truck ordinance effort. The fees set by council Monday evening are $100 for an annual mobile food vendor permit, and $40 for a special event permit. The ordinance was welcomed by Barone, who has owned Rosie’s Italian Grille in Toledo for 36 years, and has a food truck that serves customers in Perrysburg, Maumee, Waterville and Toledo. Barone, of Perrysburg, arrived early for the council meeting, so he drove around town looking for a good spot for his truck. His eyes zeroed in on Wooster Green with the new gazebo. “I think we could get enough trucks there to make a difference,” he said. Barone heads up a food truck association which has 11 members. Their menus offer items like grilled baby lamb chops, lobster mac and cheese, cauliflower crust pizza, Cuban food, steamed mussel salad, perch, cappuccino, and ice cream. Now he just has to find a day of the week that works. “It’s usually best to do it once a week, so people get used to it.” Some communities couple their food truck evenings with other events. Perrysburg pairs its farmers market with food trucks. Waterville links art exhibits with food trucks. Barone is thinking Bowling Green’s hook may be music. “We have some fantastic food vendors, we just need to get them down here,” he said. Earlier this year, Barone wasn’t so sure Bowling Green would get its food truck ordinance done. But he was hopeful, since both he and his wife graduated from BGSU and love the community. “Bowling Green is not known for doing anything really fast,” he said. “Bowling Green deserves a good shot, so I’m going to do my best.” Al Alvord, a retired Bowling Green police officer who operates “Weenie Dawgs” hotdog cart, is also pleased that the city now has a food truck ordinance. “This has been a long time coming,” Alvord said. He first introduced his hot dog cart idea in 2003 and again in 2012. “There was less than a warm reception,” he said. Alvord praised the work of the committee that worked on the ordinance for understanding the value of mobile vendors. “We’re not here to compete with the brick and mortar. We’re here to augment them,” he said. “It’s for the betterment of Bowling Green.”

BG trims fat off proposed food truck ordinance

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some of the leftover crumbs from the food truck discussions were tidied up by Bowling Green City Council Committee of the Whole Monday evening. The ordinance allowing food trucks to operate in the city will be ready for City Council to vote on at its next meeting. The decisions made Monday evening favored making the ordinance the least restrictive as possible – with the understanding that if a problem occurs, council will then handle the issue. But council member Bill Herald, who was head of the committee tackling the food truck issue, brought up several issues that weren’t addressed in the ordinance, just to make sure they should not be included. In most cases, the Committee of the Whole preferred to keep the recipe for food trucks as simple as possible. For example: Trucks in the downtown area Herald noted that the ordinance did not require food trucks in the downtown area to have “visibility triangles.” Council member Sandy Rowland reminded that the goal was to “keep the regulations as free as possible. Those are things we can change as we live through the implementation.” Council president Mike Aspacher agreed that council can “adjust as needed,” when problems arise. If a food truck were to park in an unsafe location, the city will discuss the problem, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said. The city has a history of working with people and coming up with solutions that are agreeable. “We really do try to employ diplomacy,” she said. Hours and days of operation Herald pointed out that the ordinance does not limit food trucks to certain days or hours of operation. Aspacher said the city’s goal is to not place such limits. “My feeling is we should not do so,” he said. Council members Rowland and Bruce Jeffers agreed. Several food vendors have attended city meetings to explain that they only set up on days and times when they can get plenty of customers. Appeals process for those opposed to food trucks The proposed ordinance allows food vendors to appeal if their permit request is denied. However, there is no appeal process for the public if the permit request is granted, Herald said. This addition would allow more freedom to the process, he said. Jeffers agreed. However, Aspacher and Rowland saw no need for the appeal language. “I just feel this is unnecessary,” Aspacher said. Rowland pointed out that the city doesn’t allow the public to appeal other businesses in the community. “I don’t know why we should do it with a mobile vendor,” she said. Herald suggested there would be no harm in adding the appeal provision, but Aspacher stressed that there was no need to complicate the ordinance. Since the issue was at a stand-off, the topic was brought up again during the regular council meeting Monday evening to get more input from other council members. Both Daniel Gordon and Greg Robinette agreed that the appeal language was not needed. Food trucks in residential areas Mobile vendors will be able to park on public streets in neighborhoods. So Herald asked if some restrictions be placed in residential areas. Rowland said she couldn’t imagine a food truck parking in a neighborhood to do business. “If it happens and it’s a problem, we…

Food truck discussion takes sweet and sour twist

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The discussion over food truck rules in Bowling Green erupted into a verbal food fight Wednesday evening. But when it was over, rules allowing food trucks to operate in the city were ready to move on to City Council. On one side of the dispute was council member Bill Herald, who had spent countless hours covering every possible angle of the mobile food truck issue in a 180-page slide presentation. On the other side were council members Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino, who wanted to move along the process, stop reviewing the slide presentation, and instead discuss a one-page food truck permit proposed by Rowland. “We talked about the size of this report,” Rowland said to Herald, referring to council members asking the committee to move along the process. “It’s taken far too long at this point.” While the committee has held eight meetings, they took place over a condensed space of less than two months, Herald said. He stressed that the one-page permit proposal “isn’t as rich with detail,” as his 180-page report. Herald asked his fellow council members to give him a half hour to get through his executive summary of 21 pages. “I think we’ve been thorough. We’ve been comprehensive,” Zanfardino said. “I don’t mean to be argumentative up here,” Zanfardino said, but added that he wanted Wednesday’s meeting to end with a plan that council as a whole could review. Rowland agreed, and pushed for a product that could go before City Council soon. But both agreed to let Herald start through his executive summary. As they studied the slides, Rowland and Zanfardino pointed out unnecessary specifics or redundancies. For example, there was no need to stipulate that the food sold has to be legal, or to identify the type of vehicles allowed. The locations where food trucks would be permitted was narrowed down to not allow the vehicles on Main Street, Wooster Street or any of the sides streets one block off of those. Those restrictions are due to safety on the state routes, which don’t have much spare room. “It’s just not made for it,” Herald said of the downtown streets. Rowland and Zanfardino agreed. “I’m personally trying to strike a balance” between local concerns and mobile food vendors, Zanfardino said. Food trucks will also not be allowed in city parking lots unless for special events. But Rowland said she has identified several locations in town where food vendors could set up. “There are a lot of places where people gather,” she said. On her list was Wooster Green, where food trucks would be allowed in the bus drop off section of South Church Street, at city parks, during Winterfest, during Firefly Nights in the summer, in private parking lots and neighborhood gatherings. Rowland and Zanfardino suggested the city try a pilot program that would allow problems to be ironed out as they arose. “During the trial period, I truly feel the administration and council would welcome conversations with vendors,” Rowland said. At that point in the meeting, the discussion had been going on more than a half hour and Herald’s executive summary still was not completed. So Rowland suggested that the committee shift gears and move on to her short permit proposal. “I’m incredibly opposed…

Food truck talks continue to simmer in slow cooker

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The food truck discussions in Bowling Green may be cookin’ but they are still far from complete. During the seven meetings held so far on the topic, there’s been talk about peeling back the layers of an onion, putting meat on the bone, taking the issue off the back burner, and peppering the ordinance with certain language. Yet, the food truck issue remains simmering in a slow cooker. “It’s just the nature of Bowling Green to be cautious,” said City Council member Sandy Rowland, who is working with council members Bill Herald and John Zanfardino on the food truck regulations. But time is running out if the city wants food trucks to operate in the community this summer. “I think seven meetings is an awful long time,” Rowland said during last week’s food truck meeting. Rowland suggested that an ordinance be drafted by the city attorney and presented at next week’s City Council meeting. But Herald balked at that idea. “We’ve been meticulous, we’ve been balanced,” Herald said, urging his two fellow committee members to resist rushing to the finish line before the ordinance is ready. The varying work styles of committee members became even more apparent last week, with Herald referring to his 168-page report, and Rowland presenting a one and a half page draft permit for food truck vendors. “I’m hoping we can do something to attract them before 2019,” Zanfardino said, with some frustration. “I believe in the benefit they bring to the entire city.” But Zanfardino echoed Rowland’s description. “Bowling Green is very cautious and very slow to move,” he said. During last week’s meeting, like the six before, the council committee members listened to concerns from food truck vendors, brick and mortar restaurant owners, and citizens. Max Hayward questioned why the food truck proposal did not allow vendors to set up anywhere along Main or Wooster streets in the downtown area. He called that an “unnecessarily restrictive rule” that could doom food trucks to failure. Bowling Green is being “needlessly conservative and cautious,” Hayward said. Phil Barone, who owns a food truck and the restaurant, Rosie’s Italian Grille, said hiding food vendors will not work. “Food trucks need to be seen,” he said. But Herald said there is not enough room and too much traffic to allow food trucks in the area of the downtown four corners. “One of the main things we have to be concerned about is safety,” he said. Owner of the Qdoba restaurant on South Main Street downtown, Nadya Shihadeh, suggested that food trucks not be allowed to set up too close to restaurants that are “paying the taxes, paying the rent.” “I would still be OK with food vendors parking out back, but I don’t want it right in front of my store,” Shihadeh said. “It’s been hard to make it in the downtown as a restaurant owner.” Zanfardino said some cities have no distance requirements for food trucks, and others require them to set up at least 1,000 feet away from a restaurant, which is “ludicrous,” he said. Hayward said allowing the food trucks in the downtown will bring customers to the area and help other businesses as well. Citizen Ann Beck said the food trucks could keep local residents from…

Food truck discussion continues to cook up controversy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The idea of inviting transient food truck businesses into downtown Bowling Green leaves a bad taste for a stalwart member of the downtown business community. Floyd Craft, owner of Ben Franklin, Ace Hardware and other downtown buildings, said existing downtown businesses pay taxes into a Special Improvement District that supports items such as street cleaning, flower planting and watering, snow cleanup, and weekend trash pickup. Craft pays the SID anywhere from $200 to $1,049 a year, depending on the property. My main concern is the downtown,” Craft told the three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – charged with coming up with regulations for food trucks. “I’m very much against having outsiders in our downtown” – people who don’t pay property taxes and would only have to pay a relatively small permit fee, he said. “We can barely cover our expenses as it is,” Craft said of the downtown district. But Craft also noted that he was one of the people behind the start of the Black Swamp Arts Festival, which allows food trucks to set up in a city parking lot for a weekend. The fee charged for that is quite high, he added. The discussion at the previous meetings on food trucks has focused on allowing the vendors downtown for special events – not on an ongoing basis. Nadya Shihadeh, owner of Qdoba in the downtown, said parking is already a problem for downtown restaurants. However, if the city sets specific rules for the location and hours of operation, Shihadeh said she could get behind the idea. “I think food trucks are cool, totally,” she said. “I’m not against food trucks,” as long as they are regulated, Shihadeh said. Garrett Jones, owner of Reverend’s, said the city needs to limit the number and the size of the food trucks. “Some of these vendor trucks are massive,” and would take up too many valuable parking spots, he said. Rather than focusing on the downtown, Jones suggested that the city look at the mall parking lot on the north edge of the city for food trucks, and maybe for the weekly farmers market. “There’s not much going on there at all,” and the site could benefit from some revitalization, he said. Jones also said he has spoken with some downtown Perrysburg restaurant owners who have seen their businesses hurt by food trucks at the weekly farmers market there. Christopher Parratt, who said he worked in the restaurant business for 15 years, said the city needs to create a level playing field for brick and mortar restaurants and for food trucks. From a patron perspective, city resident Ann Beck thanked the committee working to come up with a plan to allow food trucks. “When I think of a progressive town, and a college town, I think of cool restaurants and pubs, and also food trucks,” Beck said. “We have a town full of millennials. I just think it’s a good idea.” Rowland, who had been assigned to collect information from other communities with food trucks,  brought a lot to the table Monday evening for the sixth public meeting on mobile food vendors. The goal, she said is to market the downtown and bring people from outside the city to…

City trying to digest on all sides of food truck issue

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.

Public hungry for solution as food truck talks continue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials hope to recreate the winning recipe used by other communities where food trucks co-exist with brick and mortar restaurants. A group of three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – has now held four meetings on the topic of food trucks. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, at 4 p.m., in the city council chambers. “I really would like us to start to put some meat on this,” Herald said about food truck regulations. During last week’s meeting, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter explained the city’s current process for allowing food trucks on private property. At the committee’s request, Tretter also outlined public owned lands, such as city parks and parking lots – areas that could potentially be used for food trucks under new regulations being considered. Tretter also outlined the city’s special event permits, such as those used for food vendors at the annual Black Swamp Arts Festival. The 14-page permit is extensive, and sets requirements on insurance, litter control, security, locations, host organizations, parking and other issues. The Wood County Health Department inspects the actual food service operations. “This is a very extensive permit process,” Tretter said. “This is like gold,” Herald said. “It’s so comprehensive, there’s nothing left out.” Zanfardino questioned if the food vendors will have to avoid the downtown area, due to concerns from brick and mortar restaurant owners. He also suggested some pilot projects, “to see if it truly works for vendors who want to serve Bowling Green.” Both Zanfardino and Rowland pointed to food truck information from the National League of Cities. “There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel,” Rowland said, suggesting that Bowling Green also build on the success of communities like Perrysburg and Toledo that allow food trucks. “We know there were trials and tribulations at the beginning, but it works well now,” Rowland said. Rowland pushed back at the idea that food trucks should avoid the downtown area. “I’m bothered to think that nothing will work downtown,” she said. “I hear everywhere I go that people want food trucks,” and that those same customers will still continue patronizing downtown restaurants. Herald suggested the food truck committee build on the city’s existing permit process – with the rules covering four main categories for food trucks: On private property for planned events. On public property for planned events. On private property for unplanned events. On public property for unplanned events. “I think this is the place we actually start to construct something,” Herald said. But one of the city’s current criteria – requiring filing of a permit at least 21 days in advance – may pose a problem for food trucks. “We’re supposed to be light on our feet,” said Phil Barone, head of a regional food truck association and owner of Rosie’s Italian Grille in Toledo. Kathy Pereira de Almeida voiced concerns about the timeline being too strict. “I am in favor of the food trucks, and I would like them to be downtown,” she said. “It won’t be that big of a competition with the brick and mortar. It will be a nice healthy competition.” Aaron Evanoff, owner of High Flying Hotdogs, agreed. “Let the market decide,” he said. “Whatever the market will support is…

Food truck meeting gives BG officials a lot to digest

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The committee studying food trucks in Bowling Green got a heaping serving of advice from a wide range of food providers Monday evening. They heard from the owners of a burger bar, family diner, fast food site, and the chef at a country club. They also heard from food truck owners who sell everything from perch and grilled cheese, to grilled lamb chops and lobster macaroni & cheese. And all of them seemed to want to find a way that brick and mortar restaurants can not only survive, but can benefit from having food trucks in the city. “I’m here to find out how we have to adapt to compete,” said George Strata, who owns Beckett’s Burger Bar and Call of the Canyon with his wife, Phina Strata. “Competition is good,” as long as it’s fair, he added. A current city ordinance allows food trucks on private property, but not on public property within 150 feet of a right-of-way. A committee made up of Bowling Green City Council members Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino, is studying if those rules should be changed to make it feasible for food trucks to set up in the city. Herald asked for input on where trucks should be allowed, the specific hours of operation, the duration of operations, and how many locations may be used? Food truck operators abide by a “code of the road,” Herald said, but some specific rules may be in order. “We’re in the process of trying to see what’s feasible in town,” Zanfardino said. Russ Courtney, owner of Rusty’s Roadtrip which sets up weekly in Perrysburg and once a year at the Black Swamp Arts Festival in Bowling Green, suggested that the rules not be made too restrictive. “If the law gets convoluted enough, people will say, ‘Forget it,’” Courtney said. The city of Perrysburg has no rules limiting the days of operation, said Phil Barone, owner of Rosie’s Italian Grille, a food truck owner, and president of the area food truck association. The food trucks go to Perrysburg on Thursdays during the weekly farmers markets, and go to Maumee for “Food Truck Fridays.” “You don’t need to worry about food trucks hanging out,” Barone said. They are too busy, and will only go where there is demand. “Maumee embraced this,” Barone said. And Perrysburg restaurants are thriving on the farmers market night because the food trucks bring so much business downtown, he said. “It’s really working.” Rowland said she has spoken with many residents who want food trucks at Bowling Green’s downtown farmers market. “I think it would bring a lot more people down,” Phina Strata said. Mary Hinkelman, executive director of the Downtown Bowling Green organization, said a survey of farmers market visitors showed that 85 percent of them would like food at the weekly event held off South Main Street. But Hinkelman said she is interested in using downtown businesses and some civic groups to feed those attending the Bowling Green market. “We are looking to those before we would use food trucks,” she said, noting that downtown businesses pay for the farmers market management. Barone said food trucks are designed to serve in mobile settings, and offer variety. “It’s made fresh right there,” he said….

BG Council committee chews on food truck information

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green residents are hungry for food trucks in the city. And Phil Barone thinks he has a menu that might please their palates. Barone, who has owned Rosie’s Italian Grille in Toledo for 36 years, has a food truck that serves customers in Perrysburg and Toledo. “To be honest about it, I’ve been looking in Bowling Green,” said Barone, who is a BGSU alumnus. But Bowling Green’s food truck rules are too restrictive, he told city officials Saturday during a work session examining the city’s food truck ordinance. No food vendors are allowed on public property – unlike other communities where food trucks can set up in parking lots or in street parking spots. The city of Toledo first balked at changing its ordinance, Barone said. “I got a lot of flack. The restaurants didn’t like us there,” he said. But the food trucks have transformed St. Clair Street every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon during lunch time. Now instead of just a handful of people venturing out to eat on St. Clair, the food trucks draw about 1,500 during lunchtime. “People come out like ants. It’s fun to watch,” Barone said. Barone heads up a food truck association which has 11 members. Their menus offer items like grilled baby lamb chops, lobster mac and cheese, cauliflower crust pizza, Cuban food, steamed mussel salad, perch, cappuccino, and ice cream. “Food trucks aren’t just serving corn dogs,” Barone said. The committee examining Bowling Green’s food truck rules – made up of council members Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – has heard from citizens wanting food truck options, from local business owners concerned about the impact on their livelihoods, and from prospective food truck owners who would like to set up their mobile shops here. “I’m hearing from a lot of people,” Rowland said. “The citizens say ‘Yes, we want them.’” Some downtown businesses also would like to see food trucks. “We need interesting things to bring people downtown,” Rowland said they have expressed to her. But brick and mortar restaurants, and the Downtown BG organization have voiced concerns about the mobile vendors taking business from existing restaurants and creating litter problems. So the committee has been looking for common ground. “I firmly believe there is an intersection,” where all can co-exist, Herald said. Barone may have given them that common ground on Saturday. Food truck operations are serious businesses, that want to offer citizens dining options and want to be part of the community, he said. They are sometimes accused by other businesses of “cherry-picking,” but that is not true, Barone said. “We don’t want to just pull in and not be part of what you’re doing,” he said. “They are your future restaurateurs. It’s a smart way to see if your food is going to work.” Food trucks are not fleeting businesses, with Barone spending $135,000 on his food truck. “I knew there was a niche. If you have a good product, you can do it,” he said. The food truck owners must have insurance, food licenses, generators that don’t make too much noise, and Facebook followings. Those in Barone’s association set up during special events, like weekly farmers markets or car shows – and pay fees to do so….

Food trucks stir up worry for brick and mortar restaurants

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It was the battle between hot dogs and Philly cheese steaks Monday during the first meeting tackling the food truck issue in Bowling Green. Brick and mortar restaurants and mobile food trucks manage to co-exist in other communities – so Bowling Green is looking for the secret recipe to allow both to operate in this city. But the common ground for rooted and wheeled restaurants may take awhile to find. “We’re all in the same boat,” said Aaron Evanoff as he talked about his plan for a hot dog food truck. “We’re not in the same boat,” Jim Gavarone, owner of Mr. Spots, disagreed from the audience. The current city ordinance permits food trucks, but requires them on private property with large setbacks in some areas, and only during limited hours. The rules have been found to be too cumbersome, so a City Council committee has been charged with finding a middle ground that can work for citizens, existing brick and mortar restaurants and mobile vendors. Monday was the first meeting of the Public Lands and Buildings Committee, made up of council members Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino. The committee will meet again on Saturday for a “really good roll up your sleeves working session” from 8 to 11 a.m., in the council chambers. Zanfardino said many more meetings will have to be held before recommendations can be made to council. “I’m hoping we can have it done sooner rather than later,” Herald said. “But not so quick that we stifle public input.” “It’s very important that we get public input. You don’t want to leave it up to us,” Herald said. The committee will study actions that would allow food trucks to operate, while benefiting the public , promoting entrepreneurship, adding to a strong downtown, and enhancing citizens’ experiences. The group will look for a balance that will not hurt existing restaurants and maintain a vibrant downtown. Rowland talked about the success that cities like Perrysburg and Toledo have experienced with food trucks. She added that Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler has visited other college towns, like Kent and Oxford, to explore their food truck regulations. The primary locations in Bowling Green for mobile food vendors are likely the downtown, areas close to the BGSU campus, and the city parks. But the committee first needs to hear from the stakeholders – restaurant owners, food truck operators and citizens. “I agree on the need for public input,” Rowland said. Evanoff, who first presented his idea for High Flying Hotdogs to City Council last year, said the city needs to bring its mobile food vending ordinance into a new era. There are many examples of food truck and restaurant owners pleasantly co-habitating, he said. There are ways to make sure mobile vendors don’t crowd the downtown and harm local businesses, he added. “A lot of perceived negatives frankly are not there,” Evanoff said. Overly strict regulations kill mobile food businesses before they even begin, he said. Evanoff suggested the city strike a balance and not use blanket regulations that will discourage food trucks. Though Rowland sees the need for regulations, she understood Evanoff’s desire for the same brick and mortar rules to apply to his business. And the same food…

BG Council cooking up legislation to allow food trucks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council is trying to come up with a winning recipe for legislation allowing food trucks to do business in the community. The first public meetings to devise food truck legislation will be held Monday, Feb. 26, at 5 p.m., and Saturday, March 3, at 9 a.m., both in the city council chambers. The public is welcome at both meetings, said council member Bill Herald, who is leading the committee in charge of the legislation. For years, food truck businesses have shown interest in setting up shop in Bowling Green, but with no success. In 2016, Mac Henry told City Council he would like to open up a food truck business, but that the city ordinance is too restrictive. Henry said the ordinance limits hours of operation to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and restricts food trucks to 150 feet from the throughway. The rules are “not very conducive to opening a food truck in this town,” he said. Henry said food trucks are currently “a big part of the culinary innovation” going on in the nation. Council member John Zanfardino agreed with Henry that changes were in order. “Right now our ordinance is totally prohibitive, if you get right down to it,” he said back in 2016, mentioning the growing trend of food trucks. “I think it’s a coming thing.” Council member Sandy Rowland noted the success of food trucks in Perrysburg, where the businesses set up one evening a week. “It might be an opportunity to provide people with something to do,” she said. Henry said he realized mobile food businesses can be a “touchy subject,” since they are seen as competition for brick and mortar restaurants already in business. But food trucks offer young people a chance to break into the business, he said. In 2017, Aaron Evanoff returned from overseas deployment and came to City Council with his plan. His dream was to start a hotdog stand. As a member of the U.S. Air Force National Guard, he came up with the business name, “High-Flying Hot Dogs.” Evanoff enthusiastically presented an abridged version of his business plan to Bowling Green City Council. “My goal is to provide a meaningful service,” Evanoff said. He has no desire to take business from existing food service providers. “I’m not looking for anyone else’s market. I’m looking for my own,” Evanoff said. Also at this week’s City Council meeting, Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler reminded that the final presentation of the Community Action Plan will be Feb. 28, at 6 p.m., in the atrium at the Wood County Courthouse. “We want the public to come out and learn about the plan,” Sayler said.

Center for Innovative Food Technology to host seminar on food trucks

Submitted by the CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE FOOD TECHNOLOGY Food transport, service and catering requirements will be the topic of discussion at a seminar hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT), Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 from 5 – 6:30 p.m. at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK). Four experts, who specialize in working closely with mobile food companies, food service operations, caterers, and other similar entities, will address the various regulations for obtaining and maintaining licenses, food safety rules, inspections, and numerous other aspects of the industry. A growing trend within this area is the growth of food trucks.  According to a 2015 IBISWorld survey, revenue in the food truck business industry has increased 9.3 percent from 2010 to 2015, with more than 5,000 food truck businesses throughout the U.S. employing 14,000 people. Featured speakers include Brad Sherrick and Jerry Bingham from the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, and Jillan Bodey and Julie Nye from the Wood County Health District. These processing procedures will be explained within the NOCK – a kitchen-based setting that educates and advises entrepreneurs interested in starting a food business.  Food-related business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs, and those who are producing a product to sell at markets and/or other retail establishments are encouraged to attend. The cost is just $25/person or $20/person for group of two or more (pay online, or cash/check at the door) which includes great networking opportunities and light refreshments.  Advanced registration is preferred.  The NOCK/AIF is located at 13737 Middleton Pike (St. Rt. 582) in Bowling Green, Ohio.