By Molly hunter
The Iowa City City Council unanimously passed the second consideration of an amendment to the city’s food-truck ordinance on Tuesday evening.
The amendment would allow a 90-day pilot program featuring increased food-truck operation downtown.
The program, designed and presented to the city by the Iowa City Mobile Vending Association, would allow between six and 10 food trucks to set up shop downtown for a trial period. If the pilot program is successful, downtown food truck vendors may see increases in their hours and areas of operation.
The pilot program would allow food trucks to operate downtown and in the North Side Marketplace between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. In other parts of the city, the regular hours of food-truck operation, between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., would remain unchanged.
Because most downtown brick-and-mortar restaurants close before 10 or 11 p.m., the vending association hopes the change will avoid creating competition. However, some owners of brick-and-mortar restaurants remain concerned.
Nick Craig, the owner-operator of Brix Cheese Shop & Wine Bar, speaking at Tuesday’s council meeting, said he isn’t against food trucks as a business model but feels they should not be allowed to operate downtown.
“I don’t think that the place for their existing is in the highest density, most competitive, most expensive, most regulated district in Johnson County. For them to come in and have less regulation … and to be able to do their business, just seems honestly a little unfair,” Craig said.
Kyle Sieck, the owner of the Local Burrito and a member of the vending association, has been a vocal advocate for food-truck operators in Iowa City. He said while brick-and-mortar businesses incur more regulations and costs, their hours of operation are at their own discretion.
“We pay less, but we’re also out there a fraction of the time,” Sieck said.
However, Craig said, this is part of his problem with the food-truck issue. The question is one of investment.
“I understand the investment that goes into a brick-and-mortar business. I currently live at Brix; I sold my house to get there,” Craig said. “To consider someone else being able to not invest what I have and take advantage of the neighborhood that I’m invested — whether I’m open or not — does kind of rub me the wrong way.”
Sieck, meanwhile, believes the pilot program is designed to work around those concerns.
“This pilot program is designed to operate when those business are not operating, so that concern [of losing business] is no longer valid,” Sieck said. “I think everyone’s agreeing that it’ll be from 10 to 2 a.m.”
Assistant to the City Manager Simon Andrew said the pilot program should take place sometime this spring.
“We’re targeting the week after spring break,” he said. “We wanted to look at a time when students would be here.”
Officials have yet to determine the location in which the program will take place. Meetings are expected to take place next week among the city manager, assistant city manager, building inspector, the vending association, and members of the Downtown District.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Andrew said the details about the pilot location will be figured out during next week’s discussions.
“The places we’re considering [are] Dubuque Street between Iowa and Jefferson. … Linn Street was another option we’d looked at — Linn Street between College and Washington,” Andrew said.