Taste test

Food truck pilot project well-received, but city to sort out details, decide fate

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David and Carol Lindsay of Coeur d’Alene enjoy lunch during Sunday’s first food truck rally event at the Coeur d’Alene City Hall lower parking lot next to McEuen Park. 

COEUR d'ALENE - David Lindsay thought it was just going to be another nippy spring Sunday in Coeur d'Alene until he spotted the food truck rally in the lower City Hall parking lot.

The Coeur d'Alene man knew then that lunch for he and wife Carol was solved.

"What a great idea," said David, referring to the pilot test rally that could lead to a larger such event in conjunction with Car d'Lane in June if the city council approves. "We've planned our day around this. The weather is cold, but the people are positive."

Hundreds of people stepped right up to the food trucks to grab a bite to eat from the six vendors and the crowd steadily grew in the early afternoon.

The vendors were thrilled with the response.

"We're surprised to see this kind of turnout," said Roian Doctor, while cooking in the Jamaican Jerk Pan truck. "I'm under pressure now (from filling orders)."

Tymen Hofmann, who was working in the 3 Ninjas booth, said the number of customers grew after somewhat of a slow start.

"It's picked right up this afternoon," he said. "As the day has gone on, it's gotten busier. This is a great way to get our name out."

While the public and vendors gave the food truck rally taste test a thumbs up, the city, which earlier approved a special-use permit for the mobile vendors to set up shop, now must decide whether to allow such events in the future.

Council member Dan Gookin, who attended the event to observe how it how it went, said that, based on the turnout despite it being a cool day, people will support such an event.

"They're not roach coaches anymore," he said while looking over the booths and crowd. "They're the wave of the future and they serve excellent food. Obviously, the public is thrilled."

But Gookin said there's also a lot of logistical hurdles to iron out, including developing regulations for such events and leveling the playing field for downtown restaurateurs who pay to fees totaling about $1,000 per year to offer outdoor seating.

"It's not our intent to put anybody out of business," Gookin said. "This (rally) is just part of a process."

Vendor licenses for the mobile units, meanwhile, will cost just $25 a month through June, then increase to $50 per month through the rest of the summer.

Lindsay said he understands the concern of some permanent restaurateurs and believes it should be considered by the city, but he also hopes a bigger picture will prevail.

"It's got to be fair, but this is not going to be held every day," he said. "But, when it is held, it should bring more people downtown, which should help all businesses. This is the kind of thing that can help Coeur d'Alene grow."

Lindsay said if the city proceeds cautiously and doesn't bite off more than it can chew with the food rally, he believes it can be great for the community.

Renata McLeod, Coeur d'Alene city clerk, was among the city staff members who turned out to see how the event went. She said that, if the city council approves the next rally with more vendors during Car d'Alene in June, it will be held in the parking lot as well. She said the only regulation that currently exists for mobile food vendors is that they must be in a commercial zone.

Other events that have food trucks in downtown parks go through a different permitting process through the downtown association, city officials said.

Joel Riner of Coeur d'Alene, who was walking his border collie mix Ansel and munching on a chicken cordon bleu crepe, said he's pleased to have the occasional different food offerings downtown.

"Hopefully they'll keep doing this," he said. "The more food that's around, the more I want to try."

Mike Anderson, left, and Tymen Hofmann of the 3 Ninjas food trailer prepare meals on Sunday at the Coeur d’Alene City Hall lower parking lot. 

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