South Haven considering change to food truck limitations

Van Buren County

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Changes could be coming soon to South Haven’s food scene thanks to a resolution that may change how a city ordinance applies to mobile vendors.

Monique and Rico Crawley’s Fruit Street Kitchen may be a little food truck, but it gained a big reputation in South Haven over the last two years. Regardless, a 23-year-old city ordinance is forcing it and other mobile vendors to close their businesses for five months, leaving a bad taste in their mouth ahead of the winter season.

“Not only is it hard to start a business, but when you’ve got to start a business and deal with challenges like this… I can’t even focus on the business the way that I should be able to,” Monique Crawley said. “Do we stop living because it is cold outside? Absolutely not!”

The code in question is Chapter 14, Division 2. According to city government, the ordinance only validates food vending licenses between April 1 and Oct. 31. It also states food trucks can only operate on private property in the B-2 General Business District and B-4 Major Thoroughfare Business District under city-issued licenses.

“I go to Kalamazoo, it’s open. You go to … Grand Rapids, other cities, it’s open,” Rico Crawley said. “Vending is there for you. You want to be an entrepreneur? You have the spirit to be an entrepreneur? It’s open!”

On the menu at Monday night’s city council meeting was a proposed resolution to have the council ask the planning commission to review and make recommendations about possible changes to the code. Public comments were overwhelmingly in support of a change.

“Other tourist destinations like Bridgman, St. Joe and Charlevoix are welcoming food trucks,” South Haven resident Annie Brown aid.

With tears in her eyes, one woman who runs a brick-and-mortar business in South Haven also advocated for the change for fellow owners.

“(2020) was a very difficult year and some good competition would be nice,” the woman said.

Commissioners ended up passing the resolution unanimously.

“I came from a city, Philadelphia, where food trucks was not only of a diet for many people, but it was part of the fun,” said 1st Ward Commissioner Joe Reeser.

Fellow 1st Ward Commissioner Letita Wilkins echoed the sentiment, insisting on a more level playing field for those who run their business on wheels.

“We just have to upgrade our thinking and be more open,” Wilkins said. “We have to be fair.”

With the resolution having passed, the planning commission is going to look at the mobile vendor ordinance and pitch back any recommendations to the city council.

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