Mobile Food Trucks Downtown? Not with Detroit’s Archaic Vending Laws [video]

By Nathan Skid | Crain’s Detroit
I didn’t realize how difficult it was for food trucks to get licensed in the city of Detroit until I came across a paragraph in a blog called Dining in Detroit, written by local food writer Nicole Rupersburg.

As a fledgling business, it can be daunting to go through the various licensing and permitting processes demanded by the city in order to be up to proper code. But as a “new” kind of business not easily defined by existing standards and for which the laws are unclear to begin with, the process becomes proactive, demanding the kind of passion and perseverance that exceeds beyond a simple desire to start a business and becomes a matter of social advocacy.

The article centered on Kristyn Koth, owner of Pink FlamInGo!, who spent an entire year selling food out of her silver Airstream, renegade-style, before a pile of tickets issued by the city made her cease her operations.

Rupersburg’s article chided that other major cities have become so saturated with food trucks that large-scale restaurant chains are operating mobile restaurants, making the whole scene “less cool”.

Yet Detroit’s laws regarding mobile food trucks and vending in general are so behind the times, the fad has not even taxied onto the runway, let alone taken off.

So I started looking into the issue of why Detroit’s streets are devoid of food trucks and all the cool cuisine that comes with them.

I discovered the issue is bigger than just mobile cuisine — a lot bigger.

So, what was supposed to be a fun blog about food trucks and executive-chefs-turned-entrepreneurs evolved into a deep look at Detroit’s archaic ordinances governing all types of vending in the city of Detroit.

I spent a few hours reading and rereading chapters 21 and 14 of the Detroit code of ordinances, not exactly the type of research I thought I would be doing when I was assigned the food beat.

It seems the biggest problem with the ordinances is they read as if they were written in the 1940s … and just kind of stayed there.

The city of Detroit recognizes three types of vendors: stationary ones like hot dog stands, foot peddlers and street vendors (ice cream trucks). Mobile food trucks are a different breed altogether.

Each vendor has a specific ordinance, and each ordinance has restrictions that, in my humble opinion, don’t make sense for a city looking to stimulate small-business activity.

I found two main issues concerning all types of vending in the city of Detroit: where vendors are allowed to sell and the regulations placed on what items vendors can sell.

Let’s first tackle the where and then get to the what.

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Posted by on Jun 11 2011. Filed under Code Compliance, Detroit, Industry News, Latest News, MFNtv. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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