Commissioners vote to approve extended hours for food trucks

Traverse City Clerk Benjamin Marentette, says there are currently 11 food trucks registered with the city that could be impacted by the change, but that the extended hours are only meant for use on privately owned property.

Traverse City commissioners approved an extension to the business hours of food trucks operating within the city at Tuesday night's meeting.

Traverse City Clerk Benjamin Marentette says there are currently 11 food trucks registered with the city that could be impacted by the change, but that the extended hours are only meant for use on privately owned property.

The property that will be most impacted is The Little Fleet, located on East Front Street. There are usually between five and six food trucks that work out of their parking lot.

The change will take effect on January 31, and extend hours of operation for the food trucks from 7am-11pm to 6am-3am. Truck owners say it will allow them to catch the bar crowd and get more business.

"Here at the Little Fleet, the bars are open until midnight most nights, sometimes a little later," said Simon Joseph, owner of the Roaming Harvest Food Truck. "And to have food available throughout that whole period is kind of the goal, and then I think that once the bars close, it's not only good business practice, but it's probably good for everybody if there's something out there for people to eat."

City Commissioner Jim Carruthers agrees the change could have a bigger impact on the economy downtown.

"It might be controversial to some, but I think it's giving the food trucks a better opportunity to meet the needs of the downtown party-goers or bar-goers, or whatever merchants or whatever it is, people coming to downtown," said Carruthers. "We had a really good year. I think it's been a good fit for Traverse City. We'll see what happens in the future and if we want to expand our locations in the downtown area, but I think it's been real positive for the most."

The extended hours will also allow the food trucks to start setting up an hour earlier for breakfast so that they can be available for people who are on their way to work.

Traverse City Downtown Development Authority Executive Director, Rob Bacigalupi says that business at The Little Fleet has brought a lot more foot traffic to the otherwise quiet side of Front Street. He says that many downtown business owners have said that they are okay with the changes, as long as they are only meant for the food trucks on private property.

"The one thing I keep hearing is private property is okay, but public property...some of the restaurants are concerned about opening up more food truck availability on public property," said Bacigalupi.

Officials at the Wellington Inn Bed and Breakfast sent an email to the city clerk prior to the decision, expressing their concerns with allowing the food trucks to extend their hours. In the email they mentioned that customers at the Little Fleet take up parking space in front of the B&B for their guests, and that late night noise and trash has also been a problem in the neighborhood.

"We also have to deal with the noise and trash from those leaving this establishment inebriated as well as the noise from the outdoor entertainment. Asking our neighborhood to deal with this until 3:00am is asking too much," wrote Wellington officials.

"Considering that this is the C4 district, and it's the downtown area of Traverse City, there's people out late at night regardless of whether food trucks are open or not," said Joseph.

Even though the new hours will take effect on January 31, most trucks will take advantage of the new hours around March when they are able to re-open.