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UI weighs in on food trucks

BY BILL COONEY | APRIL 15, 2015 5:00 AM

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Students wanting to sample from the food trucks that will soon roam Iowa City may have to look beyond the Pentacrest area and most other university-owned property.

Assistant City Manager Geoff Fruin said the University of Iowa has been in correspondence with the city to potentially amend an ordinance the Iowa City City Council has twice voted in favor of, and will only need to pass the measure once more for it to become law.

The measure as it stands would allow food trucks to park in city parking stalls with a permit, but they would not be allowed within 150 feet of any restaurant or in residential-zoned areas.

“The university had questions regarding its food-service operators, since they don’t meet the technical definition of a restaurant as laid out in the ordinance,” Fruin said. “Since they operate like restaurants, we thought it was common sense to extend the 150-foot radius to them.”

He said the university wants to make sure its policies are in line with the city ordinance so there is no confusion. This would include treating UI food vendors as restaurants and not allowing food trucks to park adjacent to the Pentacrest or other university property under the ordinance.

David Jackson, assistant director of Facilities Management atthe UI, said the university supports the new ordinance but has to ensure policies regarding use of space are followed.

“The [UI’s] Operations Manual sets out very specific guidelines as to how university space is used. We can’t even let student organizations sell food on the Pentacrest,” Jackson said. “We just wanted to communicate with the city and make sure that the university’s policies and the city’s ordinance are consistent.”

Jackson said protecting vendors that provide a “request for proposal” for food service in UI buildings is a priority.

“Basically how it works is that UI will notify vendors when there is a need for professional services, like food vending, then we go through the applicants and select one that we believe will work best,” Jackson said. “We just want to protect these vendors that go through this process.”

Jackson said he has personally found many places where food trucks could park near campus, including North Clinton Street between Market and Church Streets, as well as on Jefferson Street.
Kyle Sieck, the owner and head chef at Local Burrito, said the UI’s policies wouldn’t affect how he parks.

“I think that even with what the university is asking to happen, there are still a lot of good spots close enough to campus to get access to students,” he said.

Sieck said food trucks are in demand with students, and he would like a way to work with the university to make the change happen.

“I’ve gotten asked by students to take the truck to the soccer fields for various events before, and I haven’t been able to due to the university’s rules,” Sieck said. “The university requires an RFP to serve food on its property, and it currently doesn’t offer any to food trucks.”

He said in the future, food trucks could bring something different to sporting events.

“I think that there should be an RFP available to food-truck vendors in case people want something other than concession stand food during an event,” Sieck said. “Students need to let the school know they want to see food trucks on campus at certain events. That’s how things will change.”


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