Too many food regulations Thats a 104 good buddy

August 15, 2011
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Food truckers’ frustration

“What The Truck” is the name of a new mobile gourmet food business in town, but it also sounds like that oft-heard expression of surprise mixed with frustration.

Turns out, it is.

Last year, Paul and Jessica Lee, owners of upscale restaurant The Winchester on Wealthy Street just south of Heritage Hill, decided to obtain a food truck for gourmet catering and to market their culinary creations at public events around the region.

Once they had bought and equipped their as-yet-unnamed truck, the Lees “thought it would be pretty easy to get that on the road,” said Paul — “and that’s when we came across all the regulations and restrictions.”

The name, which originated during that experience, “is a little tongue in cheek,” admitted Paul.

The Lees have What The Truck in operation now, but they would still like to see the city more open to new ideas in street vending — or “any type of vending that can work for everyone in the city,” he said.

Lee noted that successful events such as ArtPrize are bringing a lot of new visitors to Grand Rapids.

“Not to take away from hotdog carts, but I think it would be nice to showcase some of the other things that people can do with food.”

Lee said some of the regulations pertaining to food vendors on the street appear to him to be designed to “kind of protect those brick-and-mortar establishments” — and he quickly notes that with The Winchester, “we’re a brick-and-mortar, too.” Just one that’s got an extra set of wheels along for the ride.

Will rating scare consumers?

What the financial rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s say “is important, but it’s not gospel,” said Garth Deur, president and CEO of The Bank of Holland in Grand Rapids.

“They’ve been wrong before,” he added, with “their misreading of a lot of mortgage debt and debt associated with the housing and construction industries. They thought that was all triple A and, obviously, that is what caused our financial issues of the last few years.”

Deur said he foresees no impact on business lending resulting from S&P’s downgrade of Uncle Sam’s credit worthiness — the continued interest in Treasuries investments makes that clear — but he adds that there is an “unless.”

If the stock market’s negative response ends up making a huge impact on the consumer, “then this could be the beginning of a second economic contraction,” he said. “But I hope and believe” there will be far less impact than that.

Most businesses have been quite conservative in their spending and their growth plan, he said, which indicates some uncertainty about the economy. “And now some of that uncertainty appears to be warranted.”

But businesses in general “are much better positioned than they were a few years ago — much less leveraged — and should be in a position to support continued economic growth, and if they need to borrow money to meet those growth needs,” he said.

The Bank of Holland is in the market, actively lending money, with many excellent small business customers who are doing very well, Deur added.

Deur said West Michigan is inherently more conservative than other regions, and thus is in position “to move forward and take advantage of all the opportunities that the economy will afford.”

Wyoming joins Facebook frenzy

The city of Wyoming has just added a Facebook page “to enhance communication,” according to an announcement from Wyoming City Hall’s communications specialist, Charlsie Dewey.

There is another “city of Wyoming” Facebook page that somebody else put up, but you can skip that one. There’s nothing there, anyway.

The real one starts out with some interesting information about an alleged scam: City water customers are being asked to buy some kind of “coverage” to ensure they won’t have to pay if the water line to their house fails. They wouldn’t, anyway. That’s the water department’s responsibility.

Curtis Holt, Wyoming city manager, notes that Facebook is another way to provide the community “with useful and timely information in a space where they are already present.”

Grand Rapids and Kentwood already have official Facebook pages. Now let’s see who friends who.

Taking out the political trash?

Well, the lines are drawn. The state Court of Appeals unanimously dismissed a lawsuit last week filed by Kent County Democrats against the county’s Apportionment Commission for approving the GOP’s redistricting plan. The court said the plan meets state law.

Kent County Republican Party Chairman Sam Moore said, “I am glad the court saw through the Democrats’ multiple proposals for what they were — political garbage — and ruled on the side of the Apportionment Commission. The approved plan was the only one that followed the law. It is evident that Democrats’ plans were drawn for political advantage, not to follow legal standards.”

All is not blissful

Although Rob Bliss is without question the city’s master social promoter and events guru, he probably should rethink his business model. According to GR City Manager Greg Sundstrom, Bliss has as much admitted so. Sundstrom said last week that Bliss told him he has a really poor business model, as he puts on costly events for free.

Following that business plan has put him in a hole financially with the city. He owes City Hall for two events held last year: the electronic music festival and the water slide down Lyon Street. Sundstrom said Bliss has agreed to make monthly payments on his tab and is close to selling the water slide he owns to an amusement park, which could cover his city debt all by itself.

City Commissioner and small-business owner Walt Gutowski said he has made private contributions to some of Bliss’ events and added that the city should do all it can to help the slide sale go forward.

This year’s electronic music festival takes place this weekend on Calder Plaza, and Shannon Williams is the official promoter. “Mr. Williams has agreed to pay 100 percent of the event’s cost up front,” said Todd Tofferi, the city’s special events coordinator.

Now that’s music to the city’s ears.

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