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Food Trucks Could Soon Be Coming to Albert Lea

May 13, 2019 10:42 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- A plan that would allow food trucks to set up shop in Albert Lea moved one step closer to reality Monday as the city council approved the first reading of an ordinance governing their operation.

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Currently, food trucks are only allowed in the city except during special events, city clerk Daphney Maras said. The new ordinance would allow food trucks to operate daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at six sites.

The ordinance is getting high praise from food truck operator Dori Etheridge, who left the restaurant industry in 2004 and has longed to return in the years since. After winning $10,000 from the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency's Tiger Cage small business entrepreneurship competition, she established Peppered Cow, a food truck and commissary kitchen serving "all-American" cuisine with a twist.

The freedom of movement drew her to a food truck, a common sight at county fairs and in larger cities but not seen as often in smaller towns.

"You can move around, you can go where the people go. You can go where there are events or you can get requested to do events," Etheridge said. "It's like being a culinary gypsy."

She added while Albert Lea has a vibrant cultural scene ranging from restaurants to the arts, those moving to the city are accustomed to more.

"They've come from bigger cities and they're used to having things like food trucks and more culinary options, so by being able to provide this on the streets of Albert Lea, people that have been saying for years, 'What are we going to get for lunch?' will have several options, It won't just be mine," Etheridge said.   

Etheridge hopes the ordinance passes soon, so when she gets her food truck at the end of the month she can get down to business.

Others, though, have expressed concerns. At Monday's city council meeting, Albert Lea resident Jeremy Brue asked how many people the food trucks could draw, to which Maras replied she was unsure. He also asked if the city was considering the noise the trucks' generators could create.

Etheridge said she's heard from a downtown restaurant owner who is concerned the lack of overhead of a building and employees would give her an unfair advantage. She said she feels there's room for both options in the community.

"There are different places for people to get different experiences," she said.

That's also the message Maras said she's been hearing at city hall.

"I've been hearing a lot from the boating traffic over the last couple of summers and really it just was people were talking about how they wish they had somewhere to just pop up and eat somewhere," Maras said.

If approved, the ordinance would create:

  • Three spaces for food trucks on Water Street near the municipal parking lot
  • Two spaces in the North Broadway Avenue municipal parking lot
  • Two spaces at Bancroft Bay Park
  • Two spaces at Frank Hall Park
  • Two spaces at the Brookside boat landing
  • Two spaces at the city beach

All spaces would be first-come, first-served for food trucks.

The city council is expected to take up the second and final reading of the ordinance at their next meeting.

KAAL-TV

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