Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Bans Food Trucks Along Four Blocks of Water Street

Unanimous vote for stretch north of bar district may be precursor to citywide regulations.

By - Apr 18th, 2023 06:34 pm
Food trucks parked on N. Water St. near Red Arrow Park as part of the former Food Truck Friday event. Photo by Dave Reid.

Food trucks parked on N. Water St. near Red Arrow Park as part of the former Food Truck Friday event. File photo by Dave Reid.

There will be no food trucks on a busy stretch of N. Water St. for the foreseeable future. It’s a stepping stone to a new regulatory framework that would govern where and how mobile vendors can operate.

The new ban, unanimously approved Tuesday by the Common Council, applies to N. Water St. from E. Knapp St. to E. Pleasant St., an area immediately north of the Water Street bar district.

“This is an area that has had an issue with what I would term as some ‘bad actors in the food truck arena,'” said Alderman Jonathan Brostoff to Public Safety & Health Committee on March 31. He said food truck operators and their patrons were generating excessive litter, smashing windows of cars, using other’s cars as their tables, using space between cars “as their toilets” and doing other “disrespectful and illegal things.” Some of the operators, said Brostoff, were disposing of grease on the sidewalk, street and directly into the sewer.

Brostoff called it a “quick fix to a larger problem.” He said quick action was necessary as the problem would worsen as it gets warmer outside. “The larger concern is citywide.”

On Tuesday, Brostoff said he hoped to work with Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa to introduce a new citywide regulatory framework within the next month. In an interview with Urban Milwaukee, he said it could include areas where food trucks were expressly permitted and others where they are prohibited. It could also address operator behavior.

In the past decade, the city’s food truck regulation has taken the form of slowly adding more and more prohibited streets. Then-alderman Robert Donovan successfully introduced several bans in his southside district, now represented by Zamarripa. Brostoff’s predecessor, Nik Kovac, successfully introduced bans on E. Brady St. and a portion of N. Downer Ave. In 2013, then-alderman Joe Davis, Sr. sponsored legislation that banned food trucks from many northwest side arterial streets. Those bans were introduced, according to the sponsors, because of concerns about traffic congestion and parking, often pushed by nearby brick-and-mortar restaurants. Often times they were targeted at just one truck.

The Water Street food truck cluster was relocated north to the now-banned location as part of an attempt to gain control of crowds and deter violence that plagued the area in early 2022.

Brostoff said he would like to take a more holistic approach and create something that works for everyone. Whether or not a new framework is adopted, the Water Street ban expires on June 1.

No operators showed up to protest the ban or submitted formal letters in opposition, but at least one is objecting publicly. The Fatty Patty called the proposal “unfair” in a post on Facebook.

Food trucks aren’t the only regulations Brostoff is working on. He’s also working with administration officials to adopt a zoning framework that limits the placement of electronic cigarette (vape) stores. A moratorium on opening new stores will expire later this summer, but Brostoff hopes to introduce new regulations before then.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

2 thoughts on “City Hall: Council Bans Food Trucks Along Four Blocks of Water Street”

  1. Johnstanbul says:

    Yes! Just what Downtown needs. Less activity and food options, not more!

  2. Polaris says:

    Using random cars as picnic tables, smashing car windows, pissing (or worse) in the street…not the kind of “business” I want in my neighborhood. Good to nip this in the bud with a short-term ban while developing something more sustainable.

    Why are some people so shitty?

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us