DES MOINES, IA – As cold weather creeps over Des Moines, discussion about the city’s nascent food truck scene is heating up.
A pilot program testing designated food-truck zones is taking shape downtown. Plans, too, are forming for a food truck area in Water Works Park.
Food truck advocates say wheeled restaurants add to a community’s cultural fabric: They let chefs offer diverse foods, drawing foot traffic, cash and the potential to one day open a storefront.
Opponents say looser food truck regulations will siphon business from brick-and-mortar restaurants. They also worry food trucks will sidestep safety checks and property taxes.
The city’s conversation around mobile food comes as officials also debate another wheeled controversy involving Uber, a rideshare service taking on cab companies across the U.S.
Des Moines’ food truck tension has historically stemmed from the Court Avenue district, where some linked the attractions to late-night fights and early-morning loiterers. The City Council approved stricter regulations at law enforcement’s request, limiting hours and location for food trucks about three years ago.
Now city staffers say they’re giving those restrictions a second look, an effort food truck advocates call long overdue.
“It’s coming to a point where it’s embarrassing, a little bit,” Ben Norris said of the city’s food truck policies. He co-owns The Spot, a food truck (trailer, technically) that serves stuffed-mushroom kabobs and Kalua pork sliders.
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