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Downtown Restaurants Say Food Trucks Are Stealing Their Business

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The fight for your lunch dollar is heating up in downtown Minneapolis. Some businesses claim that food trucks are hurting their bottom line, and they say the city is giving street food vendors an unfair advantage over brick and mortar stores.

“The trucks park in front of our doors and hijack our customers,” said Doug Sams, founder of D. Brian’s Deli & Catering. Sams says food trucks have hurt his sales by about five percent.

“A five percent drop in sales could be all of your profits, could be fifty percent of your profits, it’s a major impact on the way you’re doing business,” he said.

The biggest complaint Sams, and some other downtown business owners have made, is that instead of paying property taxes, all food trucks have to do is feed the meter. That’s an argument most food truck operators reject.

“We all have to work in a licensed Minneapolis kitchen, so therefore we are paying property taxes, just not in the downtown area,” said Kyle Olson, owner of the Get Sauced food truck. “We also do pay the meter every day for the time that we are here; we also participate in sales tax as well.”

Food trucks also pay a $818 vendor fee to operate in Minneapolis, which is comparable to annual fees restaurants pay to the city.
Sams says that’s not enough and food trucks should have to pay more to cover city services provided to them, like police, fire and sidewalk repair.

“That’s why I proposed that the city collects an additional 10 percent fee on all the food truck operators,” said Sams. “That 10 percent fee would level the playing field, not completely, but it would help the fairness issue.”

“I think it’s completely unreasonable,” Olson said. “I don’t feel that any other business should be taxed more than what they already are, this is free enterprise.”

WCCO-TV made several calls to get an official response from the city, but they were not returned.

But there is a silver lining for D. Brian’s and other skyway restaurants. This is Minnesota, after all, and food truck season doesn’t last forever.

“If the snow flies, we’re pretty much done,” said Brent Freeman of Chef Shack. “So they have a good eight months of winter to help their businesses.”

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