Food trucks welcomed, subsidizing — no

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

I wrote this article for the Revue & News and was in the paper this week. Alpharetta’s Council will again take up this issue Monday. What do you think of the city spending money to bring food trucks to town? I believe the event could be self-supporting in a short time. Keep in mind that local restaurants who want to participate in Taste of Alpharetta has to pay a fee (and no food trucks are allowed). But under the previous food truck proposal, the trucks would pay nothing at all to come on Thursdays. Doesn’t seem congruent.

Two weeks ago I had lunch at a food truck. I feasted on a burger made with grass-fed short rib beef and cooked on a big green egg smoker. It had a sweet onion chutney that contrasted an ancho chili dressing. I paired it up with some truffle oil french fries and a cold drink. Are you getting hungry?

This truck was right here in Alpharetta. They docked next to an office park along North Point and peddled their grub to hungry cubicle dwellers like yours truly. And you know the best part of it? No one subsidized this truck’s visit.

That word, subsidized, seems to be a sticking point.

Alpharetta wants to create a Thursday night food truck event in downtown. It would be modeled after a similar event in the city of Smyrna, something that’s proven to be a wildly successfully for that city. No one seems to doubt that the same would be true in Alpharetta. Suburban gastronomes are hungry for food trucks!

But should Alpharetta spend tax dollars to subsidize out-of-town food and alcohol venders? It’s a valid concern. The first proposal would spend $78,000 to make it happen.

On one hand you have Council members who are laser-focused on reviving Alpharetta’s pitiful downtown scene. A food truck event would certainly help. Contrast that with a Council that’s been extremely pro-business for decades. Now we’re at an impasse.

The solution is to allow more local businesses into the mix. Let wine shops or growler stores take turns serving alcohol at these events. Two local wine vendors poured at last November’s Vintage Corks and Gourmet Trucks event. Let’s follow that model. Or how about letting restaurants operate a few tents among the food trucks? And there’s no reason this event couldn’t become financially self-supporting once it gets going.

Smyrna’s City Council was deeply divided when they first approved their food truck event last year. At the end of season they unanimously agreed to extend the popular event into 2013. Alpharetta will find the same to be true if they can work out these last few kinks.

Hopefully you’ll find me downtown on Thursday nights this summer. I’ll be easy to spot. Look for the guy stuffing his face with Korean-fusion tacos.

Photo credit: Jonathan Copsey, Appen News

10 Responses to “Food trucks welcomed, subsidizing — no”

  1. JB February 15, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    My first thought is what exactly is being subsidized and why is that needed? Is the 78K for trash, police etc?

    Why not just assign spots and place a fee on those spots (truck or tent) or apply a % sales tax which encourages both event growth and does not punish poor attendance?

  2. Cool Papa Bell February 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    The food trucks won’t even pay a city tax on sales?

  3. Lee February 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    The city’s funds would pay for…
    advertising, safety (e.g. cones, barricades, message boards, etc.), rental/setup/breakdown of the sound equipment, tables, chairs, tents, dumpsters, trash cans, port-o-potties, etc.

  4. Mike February 15, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    @ Cool Papa Bell: I would assume the food trucks would be liable to collect and remit sales taxes just like any other restaurant or retail operation.

    Of course, those taxes do not flow directly to Alpharetta. They are sent to the state, then even paid to the cities based on a negotiated formula with Fulton County (generally based on population — not sales).

  5. B February 15, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    The company organizing and making profits from the events and the food truck owners should have to chip in their fair share to help cover expenses. These events shouldn’t be a city funded party with all the profits flowing away from the taxpayers.

  6. Julie Hogg February 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Lee, I share your love of bountiful tastes artfully and authentically prepared by foodie vendors but isn’t the whole food truck gig kind of based on 1. lunchtime – because daytime workers and maybe shoppers are the ones buying; and 2. a sort of deprivation of place which adds to the illusion that they are extremely desirable because they are so hard to locate and go to on a regular basis? IDK. Has Smyrna proved otherwise? But Smyrna’s not Alpharetta….at all.

  7. Cool Papa Bell February 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    Julie, wow. To question No. 1: no. To question No. 2: no.

    To the unnumbered last question: Don’t know if “Smyrna” has proven otherwise, but Yumbil, Happy Belly and many others sure have.

  8. Julie Hogg February 21, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    Hey Cool Papa Bell – I wish you had explained more about why you answered “no” to both my questions. …I’m quite interested.

  9. Cool Papa Bell February 23, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Julie, well I’ve seen lines literally 40-50 deep for dinner at Alive After 5 and certainly at the Alpharetta food truck event last October…or was it November?

    I can think of at least a half dozen food trucks that if they were brick and mortar restaurant in Alpharetta, they would be the absolute best or at least a contender in their category.

  10. Julie Hogg February 25, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    thanks for getting back with me on that, Cool Papa Bell.

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