City council votes to allow food trucks in E.L.


East Lansing citizens will have the chance to get their meals from some nontraditional avenues in the near future.

A policy resolution passed with a 4-0 vote by East Lansing City Council Tuesday evening, allowing for the addition of two food trucks to operate in the downtown area. The trucks would have to apply for a $1,800 concessionaire’s license, renewed annually for $1,700.

“Food truck popularity is growing, so we’re responding to that demand,” Community and Economic Development Administrator Lori Mullins said.

The food trucks will be allowed to operate on Albert Avenue, between Division and Charles streets, in parking spots approved by the city. The resolution will be looked at again next July to determine its impact on East Lansing and if the city wishes to continue forward with the project.

Mullins said the hope is that the food trucks will attract citizens to the downtown area, after which they’ll continue to explore East Lansing’s other businesses. She added the city looked at how food trucks had impacted other local communities and noted those food trucks had gained a following that East Lansing hoped to capitalize on.

One community that has seen success with food trucks is Lansing’s Old Town, which began allowing food trucks to move into the area last year.

Old Town Commercial Association Executive Director Louise Gradwohl said the community has seen increased vibrancy with the addition of food trucks and has received no complaints about the mobile restaurants.

“It’s been a great response (from community members),” Gradwohl said. “Not only do they experience the food, but they spend time in the area and have repeat visits.”

However, in researching whether to bring food trucks into East Lansing, the city received many responses from local restaurateurs opposed to the resolution.

Aaron Weiner, general manager of Buffalo Wild Wings, 360 Albert Ave., is one of those opposed to allowing food trucks in the area. Weiner feels the license fee for food trucks is inequitable to what brick and mortar restaurants have to pay in property taxes for the same location.

The cost of a license fee is estimated to be about five times more than what a restaurant would pay to operate in the same 40-square-foot location, but Weiner said the comparison was unfair.

“We’ll be competing with someone who doesn’t share in many of the costs that we do,” he said. “It’s a very hot issue nationwide in the restaurant business right now for good reason. There’s not a single restaurant owner in the downtown area who thought this would be fair.”

Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett said although the initial reaction to food trucks from restaurants might be rocky, he hopes the wrinkles would be smoothed out in time.

“It’s been very successful in other communities, and I’m confident that other tensions will cease and they’ll be able to coexist for the benefit of our residents in East Lansing,” he said.

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