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Food trucks could move into E.L. with council approval

March 29, 2012

East Lansing’s dining scene could get a mobile upgrade later this year if the city council approves a policy next week allowing food trucks to operate downtown.

The policy revision builds on guidelines approved last year allowing food cart vendors to operate at three different locations in the city.

The revision would set aside space at two metered parking spaces near the Albert Avenue and Division Street intersection for two food trucks.

The revision was presented to the council at its Tuesday night meeting at City Hall, 410 Abbot Road, and is scheduled to be on the council’s consent agenda on Tuesday.

Two different vendors took advantage of the food cart vendor policy last year, Community and Economic Development Administrator Lori Mullins said at the meeting.

Food truck vendors still would be subject to the same rules governing hours of operation — between 7 a.m. and midnight — and using the space would cost a vendor $1,800, including a $200 application fee.

Food truck vendors would be required to provide the city with a monthly schedule — including hours of operation ­— to allow the metered spaces to be used for cars when the food trucks are gone.

Mullins said she has personally talked with two food truck vendors about potential operations, and said other city staff have talked with additional interested vendors.

Councilmember Kevin Beard said this revision is the logical next step for the policy, and expects the change to be approved.

If the revision goes forward, food trucks that operate on the edge of the city could move way downtown.

The Purple Carrot Food Truck, which aims to sell food made with locally grown ingredients, makes its way around the Lansing area on a weekly basis, and is stopping at the Hannah Office Center, 4660 S. Hagadorn Rd., today.

Nina Santucci, the founder and owner of The Purple Carrot, said the downtown location would be a good spot for the truck to visit from time to time, but said it might be tough to pin down a
regular schedule because of varying demand for the food truck.

“It’s exciting to hear about a progressive movement for food trucks,” Santucci said.

But some business owners are concerned about the possibility of decreased traffic in their restaurants if food trucks move into town.

Anthony Lagalo, the owner of Tony’s Restaurant, 350 Albert Ave., said he opposes the revision because of the additional competition it might bring.

He said food trucks most likely would draw customers away from his business during lunch hours, but not late at night.

“I don’t think it’s fair to our businesses that pay taxes and rent spaces,” Lagalo said.

Graduate student Kyle Zeuch said food trucks would have to be priced right to attract students.

“I would assume if it’s affordable, then students would take advantage of them,” he said. “I know there’s kind of a craze (for food trucks).”

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