Satisfy late-night munchies at the kickoff of Iowa City’s new food truck pilot program

Concert goers line up to get a bite from the Don Diego, Island Vybes and Marco’s food trucks. Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. — photo by Zak Neumann

Food Truck Late Night Pilot Kick-Off

Robert A. Lee Recreation Center — Friday, March 31 from 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Soak up the alcohol after a night on the town and enjoy some local flavor from up to six food trucks at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center on Friday night. Island Vybz, The Box Lunch, Local Burrito, Flip n Chop and Keepin Up with the Jones’s will park along Ralston Creek in the Rec Center parking lot for the kickoff of Iowa City’s late-night food truck pilot program.

“I am excited to see food trucks given an opportunity to collect data to assess the pros and cons of our presence in the area,” said chef Kyle Sieck of Local Burrito. “Food trucks, or street vending in general, is something that is at the heart of every cool metropolitan scene across the USA, and has been something integral to civilization since antiquity.”

Sieck said guests can expect Jamaican, Filipino, Midwest/Mexican, ’50s diner and African soul food at the kick-off, as well as live music by singer-songwriter Lily DeTaeye, a University of Iowa student from Des Moines who will plug in to Sieck’s generator.

The trucks will continue to serve the late-night crowd for the next 90 days on Friday and Saturday nights. Four trucks at a time will park near the Clinton St dorms in April, the Robert A. Lee Rec Center in May and under the Biology Building bridge in June. Only five trucks are currently participating because nobody else has applied for a permit, but that is subject to change, assistant to the city manager Simon Andrew said.

The Iowa City Mobile Food Vendor Association proposed the pilot program to test the viability of extending food trucks’ hours of operation, which are currently 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. The city council unanimously approved the pilot, and its success will determine whether changes to the city code allow the trucks to become a permanent late-night fixture.

“Ideally, weather permitting and foot traffic being what we would expect on a Friday night, the vendors are able to get the type of business that they wanna see come through,” Andrew said.

Downtown business owners have been and will continue to be a part of the conversation as the city evaluates the program, Andrew said. A regulation requiring mobile vendors to park at least 150 feet from restaurants has been positively received by restaurant owners. The food carts on the Pedestrian Mall are covered by a different set of regulations and exempt from these rules.

“The Mobile Vending Association did organize a meeting with the downtown district, where a number of restaurant owners and managers gave their input,” Andrew said. “We don’t want to do anything to adversely affect those businesses.”

Sieck said under the current ordinance and pilot program food trucks aren’t allowed to directly compete with other businesses, and that he hopes restaurant owners can see mobile vending as a source of opportunity and innovation. “We feel we add cultural value as well as economic opportunities for ‘micro’ culinary entrepreneurs,” Sieck said.

City Channel 4 will livestream on Facebook from the kick-off event.

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