Northville, MI: Northville could look at allowing semi-permanent food trucks outside downtown

Northville could explore allowing food trucks to pop up in town after a request from Slows Bar BQ. (Photo: submitted)

By David Veselenak  |  Hometown Life

Could a Detroit staple open up a temporary food truck location somewhere in Northville? It’s something the city’s planning commission plans to take a look at in the future.

Slows Bar BQ proposed the idea of setting up its food truck in Northville on a semi-permanent basis next summer as a way to bring its barbecue goodies from its home base in Detroit’s Corktown area to Northville. The company would look to set up its truck for a couple of days a week for a few months in the city and leave it overnight.

Terry Perrone, a Northville resident and a director for Slows, told the city’s planning commission of the company’s hopes of bringing its food to the city.

“It’s got to be the right fit,” he said. “I appreciate the opportunity to talk to everybody about it.”

Perrone said he’s looked at locations across the city, including one location along Seven Mile just west of Main Street. That location would keep the food truck far from the restaurants downtown, something several restaurant owners supported.

Six restaurant owners submitted a letter to the planning commission, asking them to avoid allowing a semi-permanent food truck to set up near downtown, arguing that trucks could come in to town during only the profitable times and not make the same investment into the community that they do.

“If Slows Bar BQ wants to profit from the economic success and hard work that Northville has achieved, then they should invest in our city like the rest of us have,” states the letter, which was signed by owners of Pooles Tavern, Tiramisu, The Garage, The Sports Den, Bricks and Center Street Grill.

John Casey, owner of Pooles Tavern, wrote the letter. He told the planning commission during its Oct. 15 meeting the restaurants downtown are not opposed to food trucks coming, but did not want to see them too close to the downtown area on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.

“We felt that was an issue,” he said. “We stay open and contribute to the community in months we don’t make a penny.”

Shawn Riley of the Downtown Development Authority said the DDA board had voted that morning to unanimously agree that food trucks, if allowed, should not operate in the downtown area.

Food trucks have become a lucrative business across metro Detroit, with some communities looking to regulate them. The City of Livonia originally looked at creating an ordinance governing their usage earlier this year, though the city council decided not to act on it for the time being.

The City of Northville does not allow for food trucks parked on city property, unless it is part of a special event. They also require registration with the city if operating on private property, such as the Northville Winery, a place where the truck has operated before, Perrone said.

Perrone offered several options for moving forward, including doing a test run next year in the month of May and seeing how it is received.

While no action was taken on the issue by the planning commission, it’s expected to discuss the issue at a later date. Many members cited the effect food trucks have on communities and what they can do to benefit them, including in cities such as Seattle or Portland.

Marc Russell, the commission’s vice chair, said he’s visited the staging area for food trucks in Portland before and can see how such an entity could be valuable, including if it serves as a starting point for businesses to eventually move into a brick-and-mortar space.

“That is a very welcome food truck entity in that community and has been for … 30 years,” Russell said. “It is a unique body of restaurants that you can’t find anywhere else.

“I think Portland and Seattle would be the two areas we look at as models.”