What defines a restaurant? That was the question brought to the Brainerd City Council Monday night.
The answer was one that surrounds Prairie Bay’s recent extension into a mobile food truck in the community. According to the council by a 6-1 vote, the food truck is not a restaurant as defined by the city. Council member Kevin Goedker voted against the motion.
“The only definition, and I think even Nick (Miller, manager at Prairie Bay) mentioned that you could have 100 different definitions, is the one by our ordinance and those choices are that a restaurant is a sit down restaurant,” said council member Bonnie Cumberland. “And the (Prairie Bay) food truck doesn’t meet those requirements.
“To me a drive-thru or delivery restaurant isn’t part of this and if I go into Little Caesar’s, that is a take out but to me, this is a carry away, I don’t go inside anywhere.”
Currently operating on permits in Nisswa, Crosslake, Baxter and Brainerd, Prairie Bay is working with a number of area businesses, which could include the Westgate Mall and Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Baxter Clinic, in order to rotate the food truck to different sites for meals. The truck, called the Prairie Bay Side Dish Local-Motive Kitchen, offers a select menu including soup, sandwiches and take-n-bake pizzas.
Miller said the menu will adjust when in the vicinity of neighboring restaurants who count on making money via sandwich or pizza sales.
“We didn’t start a new business,” said Miller. “We want to use this as an extension of who we are (at Prairie Bay) and spread what we do to the community and our spirit for food and our love of all things culinary.”
However, Miller said he does understand the issue coming to the city and he agreed that he wants to play by the rules and respect and follow all that needs to be done to operate in the city.
Local business owners also spoke to their concerns of the food truck coming into town.
“They call it a truck, because it is a truck not a restaurant,” said Bob Turner, owner of Front Street Cafe in downtown Brainerd. “I think this should be put off down the road so we can weigh all the pros and cons with all the restaurants in town.
“But tonight, the issue is supposed to be specifically to decide if this (food truck) is a restaurant. ... Let’s not call this truck a building.”
Mike Bullinger, now living in Fargo, N.D., was the one who brought Prairie Bay into the area and came to speak in support of what Miller and Prairie Bay Chef Matt Annand are doing.
“These boys (Miller and Annand) have worked their tails off to make Prairie Bay the number one restaurant in the area,” said Bullinger. “Change is always tough. Our plan for this food truck isn’t to hurt these people (current restaurant owners) and the type of food we offer is very different.
“They (Miller and Annand) have a vision and I truly believe that a mobile restaurant is equipped better than some current restaurants.”
Monday night’s motion does not hinder the food truck’s current operating status but bars them from serving to the public from private and public locations. Essentially, while working off a catering permit, the truck could sell to employees at a company that requests their services.
Council did make a second motion to turn the topic over to the planning and zoning commission for further research and discussion on potentially allowing the food trucks to serve to the public in the future.