Friday, October 19, 2018

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Eau Claire's food truck rules revisited

City considers lower fees, longer parking hours for vendors in public areas

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    Customers place food orders on May 20, 2017 at the Biggie and Bull BBQ trailer parked at Lazy Monk Brewery in Eau Claire. Mobile food vendors have worked with private landowners in recent years to sell their grub, but hardly any have applied to set up at city parks and other public spots. The city is considering changes to its fees and restrictions on food trucks to see if that encourages more vendors to apply for permits.

    Staff file photo

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    File photo

Eau Claire’s attempt to attract food truck vendors has drawn a smaller response than city leaders envisioned, causing them to rethink restrictions and fees on those mobile businesses.

During its meetings this week, the City Council will consider several changes to a 2016 law that established licenses and public places where food trucks could operate in Eau Claire.

Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle pushed for the original legislation two years ago, but said what was approved then has just proved too restrictive.

“I am encouraged that these changes are being proposed,” she said.

A $250 permit to operate in city parks would be slashed to $120, based on the proposal. A four-hour time limit to be parked along a city street would grow to six hours. Food trucks also weren’t allowed within 200 feet of a restaurant, but that would change so they could be that close with the owner’s consent.

The city’s Schlegelmilch parking lot also would join the list of 16 parks where the trucks are allowed to operate with a license from the city.

Emmanuelle noted that lot’s high-visibility downtown location on the 500 block of South Farwell Street will be a good option for vendors.

Earlier this year, the city expanded the list of parks where trucks would be able to park with a city license. A recent listening session between food truck operators and city staff yielded the latest proposed changes.

Just now the city is getting its first bite from a vendor applying for a license since the law was first created about two years ago. 

The first license has been applied for the past few weeks, according to city clerk Carrie Riepl. That vendor is pending inspections before the license will be issued.

Otherwise, vendors so far have opted to set up on privately owned lots with the consent of landowners or in conjunction with special events.

Emmanuelle said she hopes the council approves the relaxed restrictions during Tuesday’s meeting to help burgeoning small businesses have more opportunities to sell their food in Eau Claire.

“Our local economy only functions well when everybody has a chance to succeed,” she said. “Food trucks are the gateway to build wealth and mobility in a different way outside a traditional bricks and mortar restaurant setting.”

Other business

Also on the council’s agenda this week:

• The city is applying for a second year of grant funding from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to help pay for replacing lead water lines. Eau Claire is seeking $300,000 in state funding, which will allow the city to reimburse individual homeowners $2,000 when they replace the lead pipes.

• A five-year plan for projects the city intends to pursue in its parks, open spaces and recreational facilities will be discussed Monday and scheduled for a vote Tuesday.

• Zach Halmstad, co-founder of software company Jamf, has offered to donate $110,000 to the city for an aesthetic lighting system for the pedestrian bridge being constructed to link Phoenix Park with Haymarket Plaza. The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on accepting the donation for a lighting system similar to the one already in place on the Phoenix Park bridge.

Contact: 715-833-9204,, @ADowd_LT on Twitter


EAU CLAIRE CITY COUNCIL Meets at 7 p.m. Monday and 4 p.m. Tuesday in the council chamber at City Hall, 203 S. Farwell St.

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