The new Twins stadium won’t be the only source of intrigue in downtown Minneapolis this summer. On April 2, the Minneapolis City Council will vote on a proposal to bring street food vending to the downtown area of the city. Introduced by Councilmember Lisa Goodman, the proposal — which will go into effect on May 1, if passed — has stirred an energetic debate among the community at large and restaurant industry members alike. The proposal (as it stands) would allow 25 currently licensed food vendors (with access to a commercially licensed kitchen) to sell food from motorized vehicles for a fee of $483 annually and another $391 for startup costs. Applications would be approved on a first-come, first-serve basis. [Here’s full text of Goodman’s main proposal as a PDF, and a related proposal, also in PDF; both dated Mar. 22.]
Despite questions about competition, waste control, and limitations on hours and areas of operations, the proposal seems set to pass the council. Goodman says she has been “surprised by the enthusiasm of the food world,” because the measure was never lobbied for or pushed by the community. It began internally, among the council and a few business and property owners, as a way to “improve street vitality,” she says. And then supporters just “came out of the woodwork.”
As of Wednesday morning, the city can count on at least nine council member votes in favor of street vending, which is two more than the simple majority the proposal needs in order to pass. In addition to Goodman, Councilmembers Sandy Colvin Roy, Barbara Johnson, Elizabeth Glidden, Gary Schiff, Meg Tuthill, Kevin Reich, Robert Lilligren, and Betsy Hodges have all stated their approval of the proposal in interviews with the Heavy Table. Finally, Mayor Rybak must also agree with the measure.
Councilmember Roy is confident in the proposal’s chances because, she says: “Almost everyone would say yes to being given more choices of what to eat, especially outdoors during our good weather season.” Councilmember Schiff agrees: “We have a vibrant downtown. More lunchtime and late night food options will bring even more vitality to our city.”
But even with nine votes in the bank, it’s worth noting that some council members remain skeptical. Councilmember Cam Gordon, for example, wants to say “yea,” but is hopeful that by Friday’s vote, the proposal’s language will include “some criteria so that we could somehow use our abilities to encourage ones [food carts] that might provide healthier food choices, locally grown food.” He also wants to address environmental issues more closely: “I’ve got some concerns about gasoline power generators all over the city and Styrofoam containers.”
In response to other concerns that the proposal is moving too quickly and needs more polish, Councilmember Glidden says: “At some point you just need to say we’re at a good enough spot to start.” Goodman mentions the much-contested stipulation to limit the geographic scope of vending to downtown as an effort to track its impact.
What’s more, the proposal has continued to be reshaped throughout this week. It will undergo final scrutiny at today’s Committee Meeting of the Whole, where council members will review the most recent changes — based on public feedback and discussions — that have been made to the proposal. The meeting is a public hearing, meaning anyone who is interested can attend. While there may be no need for soapboxes, to learn more about the proposal’s updated state, you can listen in today at 10am in Room 317 of City Hall. You can also watch the meeting on Minneapolis 79 or stream it live from the city’s website.