GAYLORD — Tony Vaden, owner of the Pine Squirrel Bar and Grill, believes it’s an unfair advantage for a food truck to operate directly across from his business on South Otsego Avenue in Gaylord.
Kim Taylor of Gaylord, who owns the food truck, said he does not see the close proximity to Vaden’s business as an edge because he serves a different lunchtime clientele.
The issue may come up at a future Gaylord City Council meeting after Vaden voiced complaints about Taylor’s food truck to the panel on Sept. 28.
“If he were operating one lot south or north of me, that would be fine,” Vaden said during an interview. “For example, there is a food truck at Tractor Supply (located up the street from the Pine Squirrel) and I don’t have a problem with that.”
Vaden objects to Taylor locating his truck directly across South Otsego Avenue from him.
“You can ask any restaurant owner and they would feel the same way,” he said.
Vaden said most cities have an ordinance that requires food trucks to not locate within 500-600 feet of a brick-and-mortar establishment like his.
“They don’t have to pay all the expenses I have like the taxes, insurance and utilities,” Vaden said. “So I feel that when someone parks across the street from me there is a reason for it. Maybe someone will see that my parking lot is full and they think ‘let me go over to the food truck and grab a sandwich.’ That’s my issue with it.”
Taylor argues his operation is so limited that it’s unlikely he is taking away business from Vaden.
“I am only here two days a week for four hours a day (11 a.m.-3 p.m.). I don’t serve dinner. If someone wants a beer they are going to go into his place,” Taylor said.
“I understand I am not a brick-and-mortar building,” Taylor continued. “I don’t think I have taken business away from him. What would he do if Burger King came in here, or another restaurant?”
Taylor said he is fulfilling the needs of a different consumer segment than Vaden does at his business.
“I get the people who want to have lunch fast. They don’t have the time to sit down,” he said.
Taylor said he doesn’t operate his food truck in the winter.
“I will be here this week and then maybe next week. Then I am done for the year and I won’t be back until May or June of next year,” he said.
Officials in Elk Rapids dealt with this issue several years ago, according to Elk Rapids Village Manager Bill Cooper.
Cooper said the village passed a temporary policy “to see if the rules we put in place would work before we set a permanent policy. We set requirements for ‘licensing’ and established an annual fee ($100) for trucks to operate within the community. We also established locations where they could operate, both locations and number of trucks that could be in place.”
“When we had the rules we set the locations around 1,000 feet from the downtown restaurants. No one could operate near a brick-and-mortar establishment. It was a way of satisfying the restaurants as there were a ton of complaints when we were looking at this policy,” he added.
“We had maybe one application but that was it. Due to the lack of a response, the policy was allowed to expire. We have not had any inquiries or problems since. It could be that the trucks did not want to pay a licensing fee in every community, especially since they were not sure that their business would take off,” Cooper said.
“We do allow trucks on private property, such as businesses, but we require that they have a license from the county health department. We are running 1-2 notifications per year,” he added.
The dispute between Vaden and Taylor came up before the council this summer. The council waived fees for food trucks to provide some economic help to the businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Food trucks normally would be required to obtain a permit at a cost of $50 a day or $200 for a month.
City Treasurer Travis Hewitt noted that he received a complaint from the Pine Squirrel about a food truck operating directly across from the business.