Food trucks on a roll

COEUR d'ALENE - The Coeur d'Alene City Council agreed to give the green light to providing a space for mobile eateries to gather downtown.

During the council's regular meeting on Tuesday, a motion was passed to allow a small number of food trucks to use the lower parking lot at City Hall on April 12. If the trial is a success, the council could then approve a larger-scale gathering in the lot during Car d'Lane in June.

Five food truck businesses purchased temporary mobile vending permits and will participate in the initial test run. The April event coincides with "National Grilled Cheese Day" and Michael Musser, who manages the Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese food truck, told The Press he was excited about the event's timing.

"It's a huge deal for me even though it's just a pilot event," said Musser, who has been involved in the food truck industry for nine years. "I've grown to love this town and I've watched the food scene here grow. With so many tourists here, and that many people out and about, food trucks are the missing link."

The Jamaican Jerk Pan, 3 Ninjas Mobile Food and Catering, Shameless Sausages, and Coeur de Breizh Crepes will also be serving food to hungry attendees during the event.

City Planner Sean Holm wrote in his report to the council that the initial event will use 17 parking spots, which accounts for 2 percent of the total parking spots at City Hall, McEuen Park and the library area.

Holm added that, if approved by council, the Car d'Lane event would use 62 parking spots, which accounts for 7 percent of the total spots. He added that all the handicapped parking spots would remain open and accessible.

"Food trucks are taking the nation by storm," Holm wrote. "The popularity of this form of food distribution has steadily increased over the last decade, with cities everywhere looking at the operational characteristics within their borders, and how to handle the influx of mobile food vendors."

Prior to getting involved in the mobile food scene, Musser worked closely in the restaurant industry on the East Coast. The classically trained chef told The Press that Coeur d'Alene is a "hidden gem" for foodies and the many local eateries are what originally kept him returning to the area.

He added that food trucks serving quality food will keep the city at the forefront in cuisine and help eliminate the "roach coach" mentality surrounding the mobile eateries.

"We're actual trained chefs that have been in the brick-and-mortar food industry most of our careers," Musser said.

"We're using fine dining ingredients and techniques while mobile. It's a lot harder to do, but we love it."

Since City Hall property is publicly owned, the food truck group would need to lease the area at a nominal cost for any future event after the test run. Staff also recommends that all food trucks using the lot get insurance to cover the location and hold the city harmless.

Vendors will be required to purchase mobile food licenses to operate during the special events. The cost for vendors

would be $25 a month until June, when the price would increase to $50 through the summer months, Holm wrote.

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