Denver bans food trucks near LoDo bars to curb violence, but vendors say they’re being treated unfairly
Denver’s late-night downtown crowd will have to walk farther for gyros and fries after city officials banned food trucks from several popular nightlife blocks in an effort to more quickly disperse crowds and minimize violence as bars close.
Denver police and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure last weekend blocked food truck vendors from setting up on Market, Blake and Larimer streets between 18th and 22nd streets, transportation department spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said. Dozens of food trucks set up outside of the bars in that area on weekend nights.
The decision comes two weeks after Denver police officers shot an armed man outside Larimer Beer Hall and injured six bystanders with their gunfire. But Denver police say conversations about moving the food trucks began before the police shooting.
Shootings in the LoDo bar area have been a concern over the last few years. Police have responded to at least four shootings this year within the perimeter of the closure, Denver police data shows.
“To increase safety for all who visit and work in the LoDo area, including the food truck vendors, DPD believes that having them operate in a different location is a solution to help facilitate people leaving downtown during the out-crowd and to curb large gatherings, during which DPD has seen conflicts and violence,” Denver police spokesman Jay Casillas said in a statement.
Sanjin Mutic’s family owns one of the food trucks in the area and has been operating downtown since 1995. City traffic engineers designated where food trucks could set up, he told the City Council during public comment Monday night.
Blocking the food trucks from operating next to the bars will hurt business and have little effect on crime, Mutic said. The decision will affect 30 to 40 families’ livelihood, he said.
David Worstell spoke on behalf of several food truck vendors that operate in the area and said vendors help people sober up and are part of the solution, not the problem. The vendors were not consulted before the city made its decision, he said.
Mutic said it’s interesting the city made the change after the police shooting and that many of the problems develop in parking lots, not around the food trucks.
“The timing does seem like the guys lowest on the totem pole are getting kicked out and somebody is going to write a memo somewhere that says, ‘Look what I did, I solved crime in LoDo,’” he said.
Denver police denied that the closure was directly caused by the police shooting.
“The department has been engaged with city partners for some time to find solutions to create a safer environment while being mindful of business operations,” according to the department’s statement. “This current move is for overall safety in that area and it was not prompted by the recent officer-involved shooting incident at 20th and Larimer Streets, though it renewed conversations about ways in which the city could enhance safety.”
Jeremy Holmes told the City Council that he works late at night and struggles to find places to eat after getting off of work. The food trucks were one of his only options, he said.
“The fact that they are losing their ability to make a livelihood is abhorrent,” he said. “I feel that there might be a better solution.”
City officials are evaluating the plan on a week-by-week basis. The decision to close those blocks to food trucks could become permanent, Casillas said.