By Andrew Denney | Columbia Tribune
Food trucks have proved their popularity in Columbia, and the city wants to make it easier for the mobile kitchens to set up shop downtown by designating 26 public parking spaces as spots food truck operators can rent to hawk their fare.
The Columbia City Council will take a first reading tonight at its regular meeting on a bill to designate eight on-street parking spaces on the south side of Cherry Street between Sixth and Seventh streets, eight spaces on the south side of Locust Street between Ninth and Tenth streets and 10 spaces on the north side of Walnut Street between Ninth and Tenth as mobile vending areas.
To claim a spot in the designated zones, the vendors will need to pay for the parking spaces they use by leasing meter bags from the city’s Public Works Department to cover the meters at those spaces. Daily bags cost $10 for one space and $20 for two spaces, and monthly bags cost $150 for one space and $200 for two spaces.
Lelande Rehard, a management fellow for the city manager’s office, said food trucks usually take up about two spaces.
The spaces would be open for vending between 6 a.m. and 3 a.m. The proposed measure also would open up Wabash Station for food trucks for the late-night crowd; with permission from the director of the city’s Public Works Department, trucks can do business there from 9:30 p.m. to 3 a.m.
“There’s good space there for late at night,” Reharde said.
Carrie Gartner, director of the Downtown Community Improvement District, said the element of surprise has helped to make the trucks popular — they are not always in the same place at the same times.
Also, she said, food trucks can offer entrepreneurs move flexibility than traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants and allow them to operate with a more limited menu.
“You can really do a startup and delve into the intricacies of how the waffle and the chicken come together,” Gartner said, referring to the Sunflower Waffle Co., a food truck specializing in chicken and waffles.
The bill will be presented on the introduction and first-reading portion of the council’s agenda, which contains numerous bills that the council gives a first reading with a blanket motion. The council would then take a final vote on the bill at its April 21 regular meeting.
The designated areas are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and food trucks would be prohibited from operating from 3 to 6 a.m.
Food trucks now are restricted to parking in private lots with the owners’ permission or in certain public areas with special event permits.
Food trucks often set up downtown in a parking lot across Hitt Street from the Ragtag Cinema and in parking lots in front of The Bridge on East Walnut Street and Mojo’s on Park Avenue.
Bryan Maness, owner of the Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co., said passage of the proposed ordinance would be a good “first step” but said he wants to have the ability to operate closer to the University of Missouri, Columbia College and Stephens College campuses.
Maness said he often receives requests to come to campus but is not allowed to operate there because universities have noncompetition agreements with on-campus food vendors.
“It doesn’t allow us to get close to higher education institutions, and there is a consumer demand in those areas,” Maness said. “So that is something we would like to address sooner rather than later.”
The proposed ordinance would not allow food trucks to operate in residential areas. But Maness said in an email sent this morning to council members that allowing the trucks in R-3 residential areas — which are usually found around the city’s college campuses — would let trucks get close enough to meet demand.
The council also will hold a first reading tonight on a bill to extend the latest time that alcohol can be served at sidewalk cafés from 10 p.m. to midnight. Patrons at the cafes would have the time they are allowed to drink extended from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.