East Dundee considering allowing temporary food trucks downtown
Bringing food trucks into downtown East Dundee on a temporary basis could accomplish the village's evergreen goal of attracting visitors to the area, trustees said.
Officials now are working to craft a set of regulations that would allow the mobile eateries to enhance the town without burdening businesses, Village Administrator Jennifer Johnsen said.
The village board's consideration of the concept stems from the request of Black & Gray Brewing Co. to schedule food trucks outside 311 Barrington Ave. on Saturdays. The goal is to offer food options to taproom patrons without operating a full in-house kitchen, nanobrewery owners Chris and Teresa Kennedy said.
"The food truck/brewery combo is a trend that is seeing success all over the Chicagoland area," they said in a letter to the village. "(It) will drive foot traffic to East Dundee's downtown square and show that East Dundee is vibrant and competitive with neighboring communities."
The Kennedys have attempted to partner with local restaurants in hopes of offering taproom "pop-ups" and delivery options, but most operators were uninterested, they said.
The exception was Duke's Blues-n-BBQ, which operates the downtown caboose concession stand and now serves food at Black & Gray on Tuesdays. By no coincidence, the Kennedys said, Tuesday taproom sales have increased 300% to 400%.
Per the village code, food trucks are not permitted in the downtown or any area outside manufacturing districts. But with their growth in popularity and strong social media presence, many trustees said they believe food trucks have the potential to bring exposure to the brewery and other downtown establishments.
"At the end of the day, the people coming to town for the goings-on at Black & Gray are people that might not be otherwise coming to town," Trustee Scott Andresen said. "This is overall a positive impact on the area businesses."
There should be nothing stopping nearby retailers or other businesses from also partnering with food trucks on occasion if they think it'll draw customers, he said.
But Trustee Jeff Lynam said he's concerned food trucks would be a detriment to brick-and-mortar restaurants in the area that pay taxes and have invested in the town. If Black & Gray wanted to serve food, he said, owners should have created a kitchen.
"I don't think this is a good idea," he said. "I can't get behind it."
A majority of the board favored the concept, however, and directed staff members to draft an ordinance that would allow downtown businesses to obtain a temporary food truck license or permit. Officials plan to talk with food truck vendors, building owners and other stakeholders in establishing such a process, Johnsen said.
The village likely would implement restrictions on the hours and frequency of operation, as well as the location of the mobile business, she said. Trustees indicated they'd prefer the food truck to be visible within the downtown square rather than tucked behind a building.
"What we are going to try to attempt to do is limit it so that it's not a nonstop, constant food truck festival in town," Johnsen said. The code will aim to "strike a balance where it doesn't necessarily take over the sale of our local businesses."
The proposed ordinance is expected to be considered by the village board next month, Johnsen said, noting it could be tested and tweaked once it goes into effect.
"We want to do it right," she said, "and we don't want to miss out on that trend."