FOOD TRUCKS: Downtown Restrictions Reconsidered

From both sides of the counter, their appeal is obvious.

“It’s better just being your own boss than somebody just hustling you around and stuff saying ‘Hurry up, do this, do that,’” says Guadalupe Anaya of Tacos 2 Hermanas on SE 14th Street.

Food trucks provide a chance to own a business; to run it the way you want.

And for the rest of us, they bring good food up close.

But of the 18 trucks licensed in Des Moines, almost none venture downtown.

It’s on the minds of the city council.

“Maybe we can get to the root of the problem as to why they’re not locating downtown,” says councilman, Brian Meyer, “whether that’s during festivals or just during the lunch period.”

Anaya has a quick answer for that.

“The cops,” she says. “They might just tell us ‘Oh, no, you can’t do this, you can’t do that.”

Current restrictions say the trucks must provide a bathroom within 500 feet, hurting mobility.  And they must close by 1:30 AM, killing their chances at the always-appealing bar crowd.

“In the night there is way more people because they come out of places all hungry and stuff,” says Raul Camarana, whose family owns and operates Tacos Degollado on University Avenue.

Camarana says his family would love to move downtown.

Meyer says residents want it to happen. He’s hoping downtown business owners, truck owners and the city can have a chat.

“Have a discussion about creating an area, a zone between the Capitol–say the East Village–and the Western Gateway where we can allow these folks to write their own ordinance but at the same time keep the ordinance in place in other parts of the city because it appears to be working in those other parts.”

The city expects pushback from restaurant owners who won’t want more competition.  But more options could improve things for others, improve nightlife and perhaps more.

“If we can go downtown, we can get a lot of money,” Camarana says, “because the bars and everything. That’d be good for our business.”

It’s a pretty simple appeal.

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