Loosened restrictions mean more opportunities for Brainerd food trucks

Proposed changes to the city's food truck ordinance include fewer restrictions on the placement of food trucks and the time of operation.

Caleb Smieja eats a pulled chicken grilled cheese sandwich while Abby Lucken smiles after the pair picked up their food Thursday, April 15, 2021, from the Smokey Jake's BBQ and Catering food truck in the Franklin Arts Center parking lot. With the skies clearing and the temperatures rising, outdoor dining is beginning to take hold after a long winter.

Those who operate food trucks in Brainerd now have more freedom as to when and where they can operate.

The Brainerd City Council approved the first reading of three amendments to the city’s transient food unit — or food truck — ordinance Monday, June 7, that will make the regulations less restrictive. The council will have a second reading at a future council meeting before the changes go into effect.

Previously, the city had a transient food unit overlay district mapping out the specific places food trucks could operate in the city. That overlay district will be eliminated with these changes, with the ordinance updated to say food trucks can operate in any commercial district (except for B-1 neighborhood office districts) and the industrial district. They may also operate at Central Lakes College, the Franklin Arts Center and Brainerd Public Schools property.

Food trucks cannot operate on the street but must be on private property with consent from the property owner.

The changes also eliminate the mandate that food trucks must be 300 feet or farther away from existing brick and mortar restaurants.


The last update is the time of operating, which would be 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. citywide, a significant change from the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. time constraint imposed in most of the previous overlay districts.

“I really like these changes,” council member Gabe Johnson said Monday. “I was on the council when we made the overlay district, and I don’t like overlay districts. … Even though I support food trucks, I voted against the ordinance because it was just so bad. This really cleans it up, and it is an improvement in the right direction.”

Discussions surrounding food trucks in the city have taken place on and off for years, with the latest instance coming up last year, when the council discussed loosening the restrictions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several more food truck operators than usual wanted to come to the city last year after fairs were canceled throughout the state, but for many, the city’s regulations were too strict. But because the issue did not come before the council until late July and food trucks typically wind up operations around Labor Day, the council agreed to keep the ordinance as it was for 2020 and have the planning and zoning commission work on revisions for 2021.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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