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DDA Wants Your Thoughts on Food Carts

DDA Wants Your Thoughts on Food Carts

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Ferndale 115 News, April 1, 2012 ed)

The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has been asked by City Council to give their input on having mobile food vendors in the city.  The debate breaks down to what would be most appropriate for Ferndale – no food carts, food carts limited to special occasions, food carts on a set day each week, or food carts without restrictions on the days.  Other concerns are expected to factor into the discussion as well, such as location and fees.

City Council had considered revising the Code of Ordinances to set up a new fee structure for sidewalk concessionaires and food truck vendors on March 12, 2012.  The fee would have been $250 per year plus a charge based on the amount of space used.  It also would have given mobile vendors assigned city-owned parking spots.

Some local restaurant owners came to the meeting to raise concerns. Vendors also had issues.

Bob Goergeff is a hot dog vendor who says he makes a couple hundred bucks on a Saturday slinging dogs in front of the Rust Belt Market.  He says he only makes good money on events.  He spoke against the idea of limiting vendors to the alleys or any other spot that might limit visibility.  “I didn’t do very well out there on a Saturday, not enough to be there all the time.  …To start out,  I don’t think people are seeking us out at that point. In Kansas City, Chicago and New York, they don’t hide their vendors, they make them a part of the city.”  He also suggested that there be standards for appearance of vendors allowed in the city, stating that he’s worked hard to have a certain image.

Another hot dog vendor, Underdog tried several spots last summer and fall. Moving around is part of what makes mobile vendors unique, but is also made licensing a bit tricky.  Last year council held several discussions to try and work out the details of where to put vendors and when.  NOTE: Underdog has been sold and the person pictured is no longer associated with the Underdog business.

Chris Johnston, owner of the Woodward Avenue Brewers, The Emory and The Loving Touch, raised concerns about the proposed changed.  “I’m in favor of food trucks being in Ferndale in general.  I think it adds a different dimension to Ferndale.  I think the resolution as written is a little too generous and a little too wide open.

‘For our business we pay $125 for each mechanical amusement device, so a pool table and a juke box cost us $250 for a year to operate those.  And it seems to me that you’re giving away a restaurant basically for the same price plus the $6 a day to open on any sunny day that anybody wants to. Brick and mortar businesses don’t have the option of choosing what days they’re open and closed.  We pay rent.  I pay $54,000 in city taxes every year to take care of trash, to do everything else and it seems like the $250 is extremely low.”

Michael Hennes of Howe’s Bayou also spoke, saying that he just learned about the vending ordinance on the Friday before the meeting, and that he shared some of Johnston’s concerns.  He said trucks have a competitive price advantage and suggested that Ferndale look at how Royal Oak does their food truck events.  The owner of The Imperial had similar sentiments. Although every business owner that spoke is in favor of some vendor presence, it was with the hopes that fees, location, and time restrictions be considered.

Cristina Sheppard-Decius, Executive Director of the DDA, said that the DDA had previously made a recommendation that the mobile food trucks be limited to one day of the week, although the Clerk and City Attorney said they had not seen it. 

Based on the number of businesses that raised concerns, Council postponed the decision and asked the DDA to come back with a recommendation on how the ordinance should be structured.  “I would like to make sure that every stakeholder has a chance to weigh in on this,” said Councilperson Dan Martin in regard to the decision to seek a DDA recommendation.

“We need to get a handle on this. ..I suggest that anyone who is a stakeholder make their concerns known,” Councilperson Scott Galloway said.  Galloway urged expediency of the DDA recommendation so that vendors would not be missing the warm weather.  A new proposal is expected to be discussed at the April 23, 2012 council meeting.

Last week Street Eats Wednesday attracted a couple thousand people to Downtown Ferndale. The event took place with special event permitting, and is a regular occurrence in Royal Oak.  Check back on April 1st for a closer look.

The DDA is asking folks on Linked In to give their input on mobile vendors.  Go to http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Food-trucks-not-DDA-will-1102267.S.103128012?qid=f6db585c-63ef-42bd-8cf6-8b2fecd8891b&trk=group_most_popular-0-b-ttl&goback=.gmp_1102267  to share your opinion, or contact the DDA through their website www.downtownferndale.com.

Note: Title photo by Bernie Laframboise.  Underdog has been sold and the person pictured is no longer associated with the Underdog business.

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