Relaxed food truck rules proposed for Grand Rapids

Commissioners to consider new plan Tuesday

food truck grand rapids Daddy Pete's BBQ 071116
In this undated photo, a customer orders from a food truck.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Is Grand Rapids’ finally ready to allow food trucks to roam the streets?

A proposal that will be pitched to city commissioners Tuesday would relax the rules for food vendors in the city, allowing them to park in public parks, open spaces and right of ways, including curbside. The proposed ordinance would prohibit food trucks from operating within 100 feet of a traditional restaurant.

The measure would also streamline the licensing process for food trucks and set rules regarding health and safety.

Current city rules only allow food trucks to operate on private property with a special $1,900 permit.

“We still want to operate more days and we’re getting asked to operate more days. But we can’t because of the restrictions,” said Grand Rapids native Tarra Davis, who operates Daddy Pete’s BBQ from a kitchen on wheels.

The reasons vary, but brick and mortar restaurant owners have historically lobbied against the food trucks, considering them unfair competition.

And traditional restaurants pay property taxes – something food trucks aren’t subject to. 

But the Davis’s says they’re a niche business, serving quality food for people who don’t want to sit down and eat in a traditional restaurant.

“We’re definitely not out to pull up in front of our local restaurant and start stealing customers. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to serve people where they’re asking us to serve,” said Davis.

Despite past issues with food trucks, it doesn’t appear there will be much in the way of organized position to the proposed ordinance.

Local restaurant owners say it was inevitable. The head of the State Restaurant Association says their attitude towards food trucks has evolved over the years, with the association accepting some food truck owners as members in good standing.

“We welcome competition, as long as it’s fair competition,” said Michigan Restaurant Association President and CEO Justin Winslow.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Grand Rapids City Commission is expected to schedule a public hearing on the proposal for July 26.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. President and CEO Kris Larson said there will be additional town hall-type discussions on the issue.

He’s convinced food trucks will provide a wider benefit.

“There’s so much research now that supports the positive impacts food trucks can bring to a community,” said Larson. “In particular, they help to grow the customer pool. So rather than dividing people across more and more options, it actually grows that base of customers.”

“When we go to places and people tell us how much they enjoy the food, it makes every minute of no sleep worth it,” said Davis.

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