Farmington city council member Greg Cowley called out the owners of Farmington Brewing Company, located next door to his family’s pub, over their plans to bring in a catering truck for a special St. Patrick’s Day event.
Owners Jason Hendricks and Jason Schlaff told officials during Monday’s city council meeting that friends who are launching a catering business will serve sandwiches from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on March 17. They said the plan would be similar to two previous events, which officials approved. The truck will be parked in two spaces behind the restaurant; food prepared in the truck will be served inside.
Cowley asked Schlaff and Hendricks whether they were aware that a 20-year downtown Farmington restaurant had recently closed, and asked whether they had reached out to downtown restaurant owners.
Hendricks said the brewery will still carry menus from all downtown restaurants, and said the business had offered others the opportunity to partner for food service. He spoke with someone from John Cowley & Sons, who said the pub would serve corned beef and cabbage dinners, but didn’t have staff available to deliver next door.
“I think it’s a travesty that you think the restaurants downtown on St. Patrick’s Day cannot service your customer base,” said Cowley, who has consistently opposed any event that brings food trucks to downtown Farmington. “I don’t consider this a teamwork strategy. People need to eat on St. Patrick’s Day, but they need to eat in downtown restaurants.”
With the rise in popularity of mobile merchants, Mayor Bill Galvin suggested the city look into creating ordinances to regulate them. He said he feared creating an environment where a food vendor could come to downtown Farmington and, for example, sell tacos in front of Los Tres Amigos restaurant on Grand River.
Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen said food trucks have become popular, and the American Planning Association website has model standards posted on its website.
Council member Sara Bowman said she could see why things “go viral” on social media, given the discussion over the request for a one-time event.
“Instead of looking at a 20-year restaurant that left the community, for reasons that have nothing to do with the Brewing Company, I would like to bring this back to the issue,” she said. “We’re not talking about a food truck as a food truck. We’re talking about a mobile caterer.”
Pointing out that the application met the nine criteria established in city code for granting event permits, Bowman introduced the motion to approve the event for one year, in light of the forthcoming special events policy. The motion passed 3-2, with Cowley and Galvin cast opposing votes. Galvin stressed that while he supports Farmington Brewing Company, he wanted to raise awareness for the need to create a mobile merchant ordinance.
“I’m sorry to politicize your event. I’m a supporter of the brewery and the work you guys do,” he said.
Editor’s note: The outcome of the council vote, 3-2, has been added to this story.