Marshall City Council talks food trucks

Photo by Deb Gau Marshall City Council member David Sturrock asked a question during the council’s Tuesday night meeting.

MARSHALL — Food trucks — mobile businesses that prepare and sell any of a wide variety of dishes — are a popular lunch stop in many parts of the country. But they’re new territory for the city of Marshall, and a licensing request for one area food truck prompted a lot of questions for members of the Marshall City Council.

After going back and forth on what, if any, rules the city should set for food trucks to operate in Marshall, council members approved the license request, with some restrictions. However, they also directed the city Legislative and Ordinance Committee to look at the issue of how to regulate food trucks.

A request for a transient merchant license for Taqueria El Guerrerito, a food truck business, was part of the consent agenda at the council’s Tuesday night meeting. Council member James Lozinski asked that the request be pulled from the consent agenda for further discussion.

The license application said Taqueria El Guerrerito would sell Mexican food like tacos, quesadillas and burritos. The food truck has also conducted business in other Minnesota cities including Willmar, Renville, Olivia and St. Cloud.

Lozinski asked where the food truck would be allowed to park when it came to Marshall. Could it set up along a public street? Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson said that was one area where the city didn’t yet have guidelines.

“We do not have any food truck ordinances,” Simpson said. Marshall has had mobile food stands in the past, but they were either part of a local business or a special event, so the regulations involved were different.

Simpson said his thought was to recommend the city approve the license, with the restriction that the food truck does business on private property with permission from the owner.

Some council members, including Steven Meister, said they thought restrictions on the transient merchant license weren’t necessary.

“Why not promote business, and if it becomes a problem, then deal with it?” Meister said.

Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson said having a food truck on public property raised some more questions. For example, if a food truck sets up in a city park, he asked, are there liability issues? City Finance Director Karla Drown said the city should also consider whether a food truck could possibly be competing against generators of revenue for the city, like concessions at the Red Baron Arena.

Council members added to the list of questions and issues to consider. John DeCramer added a suggestion that food trucks be restricted from doing business in a residential neighborhood. Craig Schafer asked how the city’s prepared food and beverage tax would be collected from a food truck business.

Based on the discussion, Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said, he thought the Legislative and Ordinance Committee should look at the issue of food trucks. The committee might be able to come up with ground rules addressing city staff and the council’s concerns.

A motion by Lozinski to approve the transient merchant license for Taqueria El Guerrerito, without restrictions, failed 4-3. Council members Schafer, DeCramer, Byrnes, and Glenn Bayerkohler cast the votes against.

Schafer moved that the city approve the license, with the restriction that the food truck operate on private property with permission from the owner, and that the Legislative and Ordinance Committee look into regulating food trucks.

“My intent is to see it move forward,” Schafer said of the business request.

The second motion passed.