Downtown leaders urge Columbia: Allow food trucks on streets

Friday, August 30, 2013 | 8:35 p.m. CDT
Sunflower Waffle Co. food truck employees serve customers in a parking lot near downtown Columbia in January. Food trucks are prohibited from operating on city streets, something downtown leaders are asking the city to change.

COLUMBIA — Downtown community leaders are asking the city to allow food trucks to park and operate on designated city streets downtown.

Current regulations allow food trucks to park only on private property with permission of the property owner. Under the proposed system, vendors would be able to reserve and park in spots in specified areas downtown.

Vendors would be required to reserve the parking spots in advance and to lease special signs that inform residents when the spots are reserved. The vendors would also be required to pay the regular parking meter fees.

Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Downtown Community Improvement District, said implementing this system of advanced reservations would allow vendors to build their customer base.

"The idea of (the vendors) circling a block to find two spaces they can easily pull in is horrible," Gartner said. "How are they supposed to tweet or Facebook people where they are?"

Gartner said the parking locations were thoughtfully chosen. The improvement district chose these spots based on a number of criteria, including the distance from brick-and-mortar restaurants, the availability of parking and the common uses of the street.

Gartner said parking the food trucks on less busy blocks would encourage people to explore the area.

The improvement district is also proposing extending the hours bars and restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol on their outdoor sidewalk spaces. Now, alcohol may be served in these outdoor areas from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The proposed ordinance would extend that period to midnight.

Gartner said these recommendations are sought to make the downtown area more interesting and fun.

"This is a lot more lively and creative use of public space," Gartner said. "We want to get more feet on the streets and get more options for customers to come down."

Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.

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