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Quinlivan proposes three city-owned food truck locations in downtown Cincinnati

Cincinnati City Council member Laure Quinlivan has proposed a new pilot program that would create three city-owned “mobile food vendor” locations in downtown Cincinnati to help solve the issues currently facing the growing food truck culture in Cincinnati.

Photo by Bob Schwartz

Since UrbanCincy first covered the news of Cincinnati’s first food truck (Cafe de Wheels) in December, Senor Roy’s Taco Patrol has started operations and been wildly popular. Meanwhile, Taco Azul is poised to start its authentic Mexican food truck operations later this summer, and Gold Star Chili has announced the formal creation of their ‘Chilimobile’ that will serve Cincinnati-style chili throughout downtown and at other special events. The early success of these mobile food mavens should not come as a surprise given the popularity of food trucks nationally.

Policy makers at City Hall are now catching on and looking to help address the issues currently facing mobile food trucks as it relates to where they can and can not set up operations. Cincinnati City Council member Laure Quinlivan has proposed three city-owned “mobile food vendor” locations in downtown Cincinnati that would provide available spaces for these food trucks on downtown Cincinnati’s crowded streets.

“I want to increase the vitality of our street life and spread activity from Fountain Square to other parts of downtown,” Quinlivan stated in a press release sent to UrbanCincy. “I think giving mobile food vendors a few key areas to do business will help accomplish that. This is also an avenue for talented chefs to start a small business.”

The ability for aspiring chefs to take their product to the street allows them to avoid the costly overhead of an actual location where they are paying utilities and a lease for 24 hours of operation. At the same time, the small business owners are unable to move about to find their best customer base. Customers, on the other hand, love the laid back approach and flexibility of food trucks to be where the action is.

Since December, Cafe de Wheels has been found in downtown Cincinnati for the lunch crowd, Over-the-Rhine for Final Friday and other events, Northside for the after-hours crowd, and at special gatherings like WatchThis and other parties. Senor Roys, meanwhile, can pretty much be found everywhere and anywhere – you need to keep a close watch to their Twitter account to stay up-to-speed. And when Taco Azul starts its operations you can expect a more steady location pattern for lunch and special events.

Photo by Thadd Fiala

The problem thus far has not been too much oversight by City Hall on the topic of mobile food trucks, but rather, the lack of any real discussion whatsoever. This has left food truck operators to fend for themselves with vague public policy and inconsistent agreements with private property owners.

Quinlivan’s proposed pilot program has been reviewed by City administrators from six different City departments, and will be discussed at City Council’s Quality of Life Committee meeting Tuesday, June 8 at 12pm at City Hall (map). Quinlivan has the hopes to pass the legislation before City Council goes on summer recess.  Free bicycle parking is available, and City Hall is served by Metro bus service (plan your trip).

Cafe de Wheels’ owner Thomas Acito is scheduled to speak at the committee meeting on behalf of the Cincinnati Food Truck Alliance.

Stay up-to-date on all of Cincinnati’s mobile food operations by following UrbanCincy’s comprehensive Twitter list.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.