Parking, fees cause food trucks to leave downtown Des Moines
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A combination of fees and parking difficulties could be prompting many food truck operators to abandon Des Moines and instead rumble off to the suburbs or change their business plans.
The city of Des Moines has issued only three mobile vendor permits this year. That’s down from 15 permits last year and 21 permits in 2016, according to The Des Moines Register .
Food truck owners must pay $1,750 in permitting and parking fees to Des Moines annually and can operate only in specific locations. Apart from the fees, some truck owners said, the business is inconsistent.
“Downtown is hit or miss,” said Kevin Gollhofer, the owner of Waab’s Piggin’Out barbecue truck. “You’ve either got a line of people buried for two hours straight or you’re watching people walk by.”
That prompted Gollhofer to give up on downtown sales and return to catering. Often businesses will arrange for him to serve lunch to their employees, frequently with the companies paying.
For some trucks, the big issue is parking. While they can park for free in suburban business parks, options are more limited downtown.
Aaron Byrd, owner of Street Eats sandwich truck, noted the city has only four zones where trucks can operate and that most cluster around the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. In that location, they have to compete with school buses, library patrons and downtown workers.
“We’ve tried to hunt around downtown and find some good spots,” Byrd said. “Some are outside that zone.”
Kandi Reindl, assistant to the Des Moines city manager, said downtown workers have noticed the decline in food trucks and have asked the city why.
City staff has proposed some changes, including eliminating the parking fee and letting trucks operate wherever there is a meter, if it’s at least 100 feet (30 meters) from a similar business.
Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, said more companies are providing on-site kitchens for employees, cutting into business at food trucks and restaurants.