NORTH MANKATO — The North Mankato City Council Monday night approved a revised food truck ordinance after tweaking it a little more.

The ordinance prevents outside food trucks from setting up within 500 feet of brick-and-mortar food businesses. It limits them to operating no more than 21 days in each of several zones in the city.

The ordinance allows for existing businesses that have a food service license to have a food truck on their property, but not on the street, to supplement their business. The council increased the number of days businesses can operate a truck on their property from 21 days to 50 days per year.

The ordinance was passed unanimously, with Councilwoman Sandra Oachs, who owns Spinners Bar, abstaining from the vote.

Several people spoke at a public hearing on the ordinance held prior to the vote.

Greg Traylor of Mankato, who operates the TNT Eats food truck, said he has operated in North Mankato and believes food trucks draw in more people that help area businesses.

“It brings attention to businesses in North Mankato.”

Jeni Bobholz, owner of the Circle Inn, said she invested in her own food truck to bring onto her property during the summer to supplement her business as she does not have a kitchen in the Circle.

Bobholz said the proposed ordinance limiting her to operate her food truck for no more than 21 days was too restrictive, giving her only one day a week to bring in her food truck.

“This ordinance would be one of the strictest in Minnesota,” Bobholz said.

Two other residents also spoke against the 21-day limit on food truck operations saying it would hurt businesses like the Circle Inn that are trying to innovate and supplement their business.

Melanie Benit, with the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Virginia, said her group has been working on street vending issues for more than 20 years and they have been following the North Mankato ordinance debate.

She said the idea that food trucks harm other businesses isn’t accurate.

“It’s unequivocally false. Food vendors are an asset to the community.” She said food truck owners often use it as a stepping stone to setting up a brick and mortar restaurant.

Benit urged the council to remove the proximity restrictions in the ordinance and said the 21 day limit on food truck operations was very onerous. “Looking across the country, that’s very restrictive.”

Clay Oachs, who co-owns Spinners with his wife Sandra, said he realizes the public enjoys food trucks and he isn’t opposed to them. “But I believe they shouldn’t be next to brick and mortar businesses.”

“I do not want to see something like the Hub in Mankato happening in North Mankato,” he said referring to the food truck Hub in Old Town Mankato.

He said he believes the compromise ordinance was fair.

Barb Church raised several concerns with the proposed ordinance, including nonspecific fees for food truck licenses and authorizing the city administrator to make exceptions to the ordinance without laying out under what conditions exceptions would be made.

City Administrator John Harrenstein said food trucks currently aren’t allowed in the city except at special events and said approving the ordinance paves the way for more food trucks while giving some protection to brick and mortar restaurants from outside food trucks.

He refuted the idea the ordinance is one of the most restrictive in the country, noting many cities don’t allow food trucks at all. id=”blockColorblindContent”} {/div}


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