Food trucks of Minneapolis: The road to freedom

Written by Ruth Kappes on .

downtown minneapolis mollyIn 2010, the city of Minneapolis issued permits that allowed food trucks to peddle their wares on the streets, the first time this activity was allowed on city streets since 1895, when sandwich wagons and push carts were banned from the city's business center.  


From all accounts thus far, the trucks have been a great success. The Smack Shack and the Turkey Truck can be seen bustling with customers on a daily basis, and the Cupcake Truck is seemingly always sold out of their confections by mid-afternoon.

At first the liberalization of Minneapolis' food truck policies was limited. Food truck owners could only operate within the confines of downtown Minneapolis, and they had to commit to a minimum 180 days of business.

This past April the Minneapolis City Council took further steps to expand mobile food vending in Minneapolis by allowing food truck vendors with valid licenses to sell food in an expanded list of eligible locations. Furthermore, they reduced the minimum days of business operations to 150.


Minneapolis still has a ways to go in its effort to liberate food trucks. Vendors are still restricted to specific areas of Minneapolis, regardless of the profit potential in other areas including many city parks and public festivals. Vendors must also have resided in the area for at least a year to obtain a permit.


In addition, like many cities in the United States, Minneapolis still maintains proximity bans on its food trucks, meaning the trucks are not allowed to operate within 100 feet of a restaurant or café on the same block, or within 500 feet of Target Field.


Additionally, to receive a license to operate a food truck within the city limits of Minneapolis, an applicant must provide a certificate of insurance, proposed operating location or route, as well as a letter from the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Department authorizing sales.


Meanwhile, St. Paul has made licensing considerably easier on potential food truck vendors. To start, the St. Paul license fee is significantly less than what they are charged across the river ($200 vs. $600 for one year), and an applicant does not have to reserve a specific sidewalk spot. The city of St. Paul has also worked with food truck vendors to create what is known as the 'food truck court,' making an easily accessible area for vendors and their patrons.


However, food trucks vendors aren't the only culinary entrepreneurs hindered by what some view as Minneapolis' overly restrictive regulatory environment.  Individuals seeking to sell home-prepared food from a private residence are still not authorized to do so, since "private homes are not zoned for commercial use nor are home-prepared foods allowed by the Minnesota Food Code."


What's more, food vendors with only a State of Minnesota food permit are not allowed to sell food at Minneapolis events.  To do so they must have a Minneapolis Short Term or Seasonal Permit. The same is true for vendors with licenses from other municipalities.


A lot has been done to make lunch hour more enjoyable in the summer time.  Hopefully the trend will continue, launching Minneapolis on the list of "fun food destinations" like Portland, New York City and many others.


For a list of popular food trucks and where they can be located click here.


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The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota is an independent, non-profit educational and research organization that actively advocates the principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility, economic freedom, and limited government. 

By focusing on some of the most difficult public policy issues facing Minnesota, we seek to foster greater understanding of the principles of a free society among leaders in government, the media, and the citizenry.