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Continued: Restaurants, food trucks vie for downtown Minneapolis lunch crowd

  • Article by: MAYA RAO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 30, 2013 - 1:28 PM

The food trucks vs. traditional restaurants controversy has played out nationwide, and officials in some cities have clamped down on the burgeoning industry. Last month, Washington, D.C., approved rules making food trucks go through a monthly lottery to win in-demand spots, and requiring that they only park along sidewalks with at least 6 feet of unobstructed space. Chicago last year increased fines to up to $2,000 for parking a food truck within 200 feet of a bricks-and-mortar restaurant, and began requiring food trucks to have a GPS tracking device turned on inside.

And this spring, Duluth passed regulations that food trucks keep a distance of 200 feet from traditional restaurants, which some said could keep them out of downtown.

Minneapolis spokesman Matt Laible said the city is not seeking any changes to the ordinances in this area, and will get involved only if the two groups reach an agreement that would need municipal approval.

The city forbids food trucks from operating within 100 feet of a restaurant, unless the restaurant gives consent. They are free to park beside any of the meters downtown, as well as in designated areas elsewhere in Minneapolis.

Makaraan noted that the food truck business is only viable in summertime and that they must be on constant watch for city parking enforcers.

“It’s very tough, this competition. It’s very hard,” he said. “I wish the skyway people knew exactly what we do.”

He started Greek Stop — which sells falafels, gyros and Greek salads — last year with dreams of leveraging the food truck into a real restaurant, much as World Street Kitchen, Sushi Fix and Smack Shack have done in the past year. Then Makaraan could serve more people for more hours. Now, his busy hours are just between 11:30 and 2:30, and he must load and unload food at a commercial kitchen that the city requires him to use. There’s pressure to find special events in the evenings so he can do more business.

Like several other food truck owners, he maintains that skyway restaurants should pay closer attention to the quality of food they serve, rather than complain about their proximity to a line of food trucks.

All of the people running the food trucks have higher ambitions, according to Sushi Fix owner Billy Tserenbat, who also parks on Marquette.

“Every food truck here wants to open a bricks-and-mortar, trust me — nobody wants to just do a truck,” he said.

 

Maya Rao • 612-673-4210

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