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First it was food trucks, next Minneapolis could get more street food carts

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The last few years has seen business boom for food trucks and farmers markets in Minneapolis, and the city is now looking to do more to help street food vendors.

If you're in downtown Minneapolis, you might have noticed vendors have set up small food carts on sidewalks. But if you go into any of the city's neighborhoods, they're nowhere to be seen.

That's because of a 123-year-old city ordinance that confines "sidewalk food cart" licenses to the downtown area only.

This is something a Minneapolis City Council committee will discuss changing at a public hearing on Tuesday, potentially expanding the ordinance so that street food vendors can set up their stalls in commercial areas across the city.

The change has been proposed by Ward 5 Counselor Blong Yang, with the argument being it could help promote entrepreneurship among those who don't have the financial backing to start a food truck or restaurant.

In turn, the hope is that successful food vendors could add further to Minneapolis' vibrant food scene by opening bricks and mortar establishments.

"Since the start-up costs for sidewalk food vending are appreciably lower than those of a restaurant or a food truck, individuals interested in entering the food industry can learn the trade, build a brand, gain familiarity with licensing and health codes, and develop a customer base," the council document says.

"It is not uncommon for mobile food vendors to transition their business to a restaurant."

Interest shown in two neighborhoods

The Star Tribune reports there has already been interest shown among would-be entrepreneurs to open food carts in the West Broadway area of north Minneapolis and on Lake Street in south Minneapolis.

Marcus Owens, president of the Northside Economic Opportunity Network, told the newspaper this could break down barriers preventing some from starting their own business.

"This is a low-risk, low-cost way for someone to actually present their product to market," he said. "When you’re low-to-moderate income, you don’t have a lot of assets, you don’t have a 401K to tap into, or a savings account, and a food cart is a lot cheaper."

Yang is proposing that as well as expanding the geographical boundaries for sidewalk food carts, the cost of the license should be reduced from the $904 it is currently to $818 – the same cost for food trucks.

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