Sometimes you have to go backward to be able to move forward.
Backing up about 10 feet cleared the way for BB’s Pizzaria food truck to quietly roll back into Rochester’s downtown for lunch Tuesday.
This is the latest twist in Rochester’s love-hate relationship with food trucks.
BB’s first parked by Calvary Episcopal Church, at 111 Third Ave. SW, near Mayo Clinic’s Gonda Building at the start of June to the delight of downtown workers and visitors. By making a deal with the church, BB’s owners Jason Brehmer and Tom Boxrud thought they had circumvented city ordinances banning food trucks on public streets in downtown by parking on private property.
They were able to park there for a week until complaints from downtown restaurants prompted the city to closely measure easement where the truck was selling pizza. It turned out that the north end of the half-circle drop-off driveway was actually considered public property by the city instead of being owned by the church.
Following the city ordinance banning food trucks on public streets, the BB’s food truck was sent on its way.
That spurred a contentious public discussion between people who want food trucks and those who believe food trucks are unfair competition for downtown businesses. Other food trucks, such as Lucy’s Tacos in southeast Rochester, have proven to be popular. However, parking downtown presents a different challenge.
Downtown businesses are required to pay additional city fees to operate there that are much more expensive than the about $300 in annual fees that food trucks are required to pay.
After further discussions with the city this week, BB’s has found a parking spot by the church that doesn’t violate the rules. City officials measured the space and pointed out where they could legally park. By backing up about 10 feet to where the half circle drive straightens out next to the church, the food truck is within the sanctuary of the church’s private property.
“I think’s it going to be good for everybody,” said BB’s Boxrud after the first day back in downtown. “It’s kind of a load off our minds.”
He considered Tuesday’s appearance to be a “soft opening,” because they had little time for preparation or advertising.
“We didn’t really know for sure that we could be downtown again until 9 or 10 a.m.,” Boxrud said.
The truck parks by the church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. through the week and sells $4 pizza slices with $1 drinks.
While BB’s apparently has found a safe spot to do business downtown, the debate over food trucks on public streets seems to still be unresolved. A group of interested people have organized a Food Truck on July 1 in the parking lot of Kutzky Market at 1005 Sixth St. NW.
The lunchtime event will feature a number of local food trucks cooking for hungry customers. The hope is that in addition to eating, people will gather to talk about this issue. A local urban design group, Charette Happens, plans to facilitate that discussion.
“The Food Truck Summit aims to be the beginning of a much-needed conversation in Rochester about how the city will address food trucks going forward. Despite featuring food trucks, this event takes no concrete position nor agitates for a specific new rules. Instead, it aims to engage all stakeholders with the hope of creating proactive, forward motion,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
City Council Member Michael Wojcik has said he plans to introduce a new version of the food truck ordinance for consideration in July.