Fighting to Free the Food Trucks in Bloomington, Minn

Food trucks have been expanding choice and spicing up dining options in Bloomington, the fifth largest city in Minnesota and less than a half hour away from the Twin Cities. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal has more:

Some suburban companies, like HealthPartners in Bloomington, invited food trucks to vend during lunch before permitting issues ensued. The Nerdery had 19 different trucks park at its Bloomington campus in the spring and summer.

The world-famous Mall of America has also reached out to food trucks for future vending opportunities. Considering the Mall has more than 40 million visitors a year, that’s clearly an enormous potential market for street food.

Unfortunately, Bloomington’s outdated restrictions are clamping down on food trucks. For starters, the city’s ordinance for regulating “transient merchants” hasn’t been updated in almost 20 years, way before food trucks became popular. Vendors have to apply for a special event license, which can last no more than three continuous days.

As if that weren’t bad enough, transient merchants are completely banned from selling in public rights-of-way and can’t operate within 150 feet of any intersection, which is significantly higher than other cities. Many cities don’t even have such a ban. At most, food trucks should be no more than 20 feet away from an intersection, according to the Institute for Justice’s report, “Food-Truck Freedom: How to Build Better Food-Truck Laws in Your City.”

In addition, concerns that food trucks “steal customers” or damage brick-and-mortar restaurants is completely unfounded. As IJ has extensively detailed in “Seven Myths and Realities about Food Trucks: Why the Facts Support Food-Truck Freedom,” street food vendors are an entirely different market segment and cannot provide many amenities like heating, chairs, shelter from the elements, or bathrooms. That’s hardly an unfair advantage. Plus, food trucks agglomerate and attract more foot traffic to an area, thereby helping stationary businesses.

To encourage both small businesses and diversify consumer choice, Bloomington needs to reform its vending ordinance. 

-- Nick Sibilla

Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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