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Alpharetta Tables Food Truck Proposal

City Council members were concerned about the affect on existing businesses and ordinance changes necessary before action could be taken.

Is bringing out of town food trucks to downtown Alpharetta the right thing to do? Does this help draw customers to the area, or does it pull customers away from other restaurants? Is giving an event business an alcohol permit for all of those Thursdays violating current ordinances designed to keep bars out of the city?

Those were just a few of the questions that council members and local business owners had for Special Events Manager Kim Dodson and the two companies trying to partner with Alpharetta for "Alpharetta Food Truck Thursdays."

Council members voted to table the proposal until the next meeting in two weeks to give staff time to get answers.

Council members almost universally liked the idea of a food truck event in downtown, but the devil was in the details. Dodson brought a proposal that would create a weekly event in downtown Alpharetta. She said Fork in the Road, a food truck vendor that operates at the Smyrna Food Truck Tuesday, among other events, had applied for a special events permit to bring food trucks to downtown once a week. In 2014 when the proposal was fully engaged, 28 weeks of "Food Truck Thursdays" would be scheduled.

"At what point does the city have to go after competitive bidding," Councilman Chris Owens asked.

Dodson said Fork in the Road proposed bringing in Premiere Events to help manage the events, and it would sell beer under a special events permit.

But Owens and other council members questioned if the city's ordinances would allow a special events alcoholic beverage permit for 28 days. City Attorney Sam Thomas responded that while staff was looking at changes to city laws, they had not considered allowing that many days.

"The purpose of our alcohol ordinance is that we don't have bars," said Councilman D.C. Aiken. "In theory we have a bar right there in that square. If that's the way we want to go, I'm fine with that. It's an interesting slope that we are going down here."

Councilman Jim Gilvin was among the members who asked why the city would partner with an out-of-town vendor at the expense of local businesses.

"One of the concerns I have, we've got restaurants all over Alpharetta, not just downtown. They are struggling to get by," Gilvin said.

Those restaurants pay property taxes, so how is this good for them, he asked.

Dodson said this vendor filed an application with the city when they were looking for a weekly event.

The city would provide entertainment, electricity, dumpster, portable toilets and staff for the event, which would require police, fire and public works employees, plus special events staff.

The Vintage Corks and Gourmet Trucks was presented as a successful example of food trucks in Alpharetta. That event was sponsored by Vino 100 of downtown Alpharetta and Sip Wine of Crabapple.

Councilman Donald Mitchell said downtown restaurants were fuller than he's ever seen them before during the Vintage Corks event. Shop and boutique owners love anything that brings people downtown who wouldn't already be there, he said.

David Sheets, who owns Blind Murphy Craft Beer Market, a growler store in downtown Alpharetta, said he's a big proponent of food trucks.

"Having a special event be able to do this 28 times a year when I can't do it, I have a problem with it. Beyond that, I think having events downtown is wonderful," Sheets said.

"What I don't want to see is hiring a whole bunch of outside people and then the city is paying a big portion of this," Sheets said.

He would like to see more than one local restaurant be allowed to participate with the food trucks.

"As a business owner, the partnership aspect of it, that sounds wonderful. As a property owner and taxpayer here, do I want to pay to subsidize another business? That's just something I'm thinking about," Sheets said.

While he doesn't hold the type of alcohol permit that would allow him to sell alcohol on Milton Avenue, there are businesses in downtown that could.

"I think an opportunity should be given to the local businesses here in downtown Alpharetta to allow them to profit," Sheets said.

Bringing Knowledge February 06, 2013 at 10:45 PM
There's a reason why downtown is on the radar... If the events with food trucks that have taken place in the past have been a success even for local businesses then obviously it makes sense to capitalize on that success. It's only a matter of time in which other areas in Alpharetta and OTP can take advantage of this. Go see how Smyrna does or Sandy Plains and how much the community embraces it. It becomes a family event, not a "food truck" event.
No Name February 06, 2013 at 10:48 PM
No problem with food trucks, just not my taxes subsidizing it. How is this fair to other non-downtown businesses? Why should downtown businesses curry exclusive favor to merit subsidies that other businesses don't get? It is not right. Why is it that some businesses flourish regardless of the otherwise dead downtown (think: Pure Taqueria). Oh, because they have a product that people want. It is a simple supply-and-demand equation. Any business that needs propped up by other people's money shouldn't be in business. End of story.
No Name February 06, 2013 at 10:57 PM
Promote the general welfare, not downtown-only welfare.
Bettie February 08, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Unfortunately, the is an inaccuracy in this article. Smyrna Food Truck Tuesdays was not planned by Fork in the Road. I am the Event Planner and promoter of that event. If you have any questions about the event or how it was run, please check out our facebook page at: www.facebook.com/SmyrnaFoodTruckTuesdays Have a great weekend!
Bob Pepalis February 08, 2013 at 09:30 PM
Thank you for adding your comment and correction, Bettie. I've confirmed the essence of what you are saying, and that Terry Hall's company doesn't run Smyrna's event – he just has the Happy Belly food truck, one of a bunch in the metro area. The city tells me he is involved with the Atlanta Street Food Coalition. Adding the word "at" in a key place in the story corrects that error, too.


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