Napa nixes mobile trucks

Mobile food vendors lose Napa permit, moving to Sonoma?

Dim Sum Charlie's

Well, at least the mobile food trucks are, well, mobile. After getting the bum rush from Santa Rosa last month, the popular Food Truck Fridays in Napa are also reportedly on hold.

It’s a surprising move by Napa’s community development crew who seemed to be supportive of the event. The city, however, is now requiring a litany of permits and ADA compliance regulations before letting the event continue. Held on private property near the Oxbow Market, the weekly truck gathering had the buy-in from nearby Oxbow Merchants and seemed to be bringing some new life to the struggling east-side food gulch. On the roster were Napa-based trucks including Dim Sum Charlie’s, Mark’s the Spot and Kara’s Cupcakes along with SoCo’s own Street-Eatz food truck participated in the weekly event. Dim Sum Charlie’s also participated in the nixed Munch Monday in Santa Rosa.

So what happened? Both the Napa Register and Napa Patch are reporting that the city planning director, Rick Tooker, is concerned about fire safety, handicapped accessibility, crowded conditions and alcohol use.

The good news: The trucks are, at least for now, being embraced by Sonoma. Or more specifically, Sebastiani Vineyards, who will host several of the Napa Trucks along with two guest trucks from San Francisco this Friday. More details here. Or here.

And of course, Rohnert Park is still supporting Tasty Tuesdays.

But for how long? The whole hubbub about the trucks has many regular folks scratching their heads. How could something with so much popular support be facing so much push back? It seems many city governments caught by surprise when the truck movement took off, often not having any official operating rules on the record for mobile food vendors. Sensing popular support and the possibility of good exposure for their cities, many looked the other way or worked with the trucks to find temporary permitting.

Now that the movement seems here to stay, brick and mortars and crying foul and city governments are panicking about possible lawsuits if someone gets sick, doesn’t have ADA compliant restrooms, or gets hurt on city property.

With all the red tape being wound around these grassroots events, it seems almost inevitable that the sprout of innovation and populist fun on the food front is going to be crushed out before it truly gets a chance to blossom.

So stay tuned for where the food convoy ends up after the town of Sonoma kicks them out. Because you know its just a matter of time. I hear Graton is nice this time of year.

Want to follow some of the Napa action? Check out the Save the Napa Food Trucks Facebook Page

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18 thoughts on “Napa nixes mobile trucks

  1. I really don’t get why so many restaurants are against the food trucks, one of the most vocal opponents in Santa Rosa was Rendezvous, a higher end french restaurant with raw oysters, steak tartare, full bar, etc. Do they really think people are deciding to stand in a parking lot and eat a hot dog rather than drink martinis and eat oysters? I don’t think there is much of an overlap. I used to eat at Rendezvous all the time, I really doubt I will patronize them again due to their anti-business, anti-capitalism, stance. It’s a free country, deal with the competition or get out of the business.

  2. Please help me understand why the North Bay is so mobile-food-phobic.

    And this Rick Tooker guy is worried about fire safety. When was the last time Napa had a brush fire caused by a taco truck. And handicap accessibility? Come on Tooker it’s a truck with a window handing out food. What’s more accessible than that?!

  3. @ Anne, food trucks ARE inspected by local health departments, they do pay business fees, taxes etc and they are not illegal, they require permits to operate.

    I’ve seen no evidence they pay less than minimum wage either, what is your source for that claim?

  4. Why not just decentralize it, does it have to be an organized thing? Half the fun of living in the Bay Area, was following the food trucks on twitter and finding out where they were going to be for the day and deciding which direction to go.

  5. The food trucks are operated by entrepreneurs who cannot afford a brick and mortar business. Their clientele are people who cannot afford a sit down meal. Take away the trucks and all you are going to get is more brown bag lunching.

  6. The cities are being short sighted and buckling under pressure from the local merchants. It is ridiculous. In this day and age when people are looking for inexpensive eats and a sense of community in their lives food trucks fill both of those needs. It is a public place to go and get some good food for not a lot of money and then sit around, munch and visit with everyone, sharing…oh, there’s that word, sharing their lunch time with others, sharing their food experiences with others, and being a part of something new and exciting.

  7. Wow! Food trucks are all the craze and I hope to see more at the successful Tasty Tuesdays. In fact on this past rainy Tuesday most of the trucks were sold out of food when I showed up at 12:30pm. I am surprised by Mr. Tooker worrying about alcoholism at a food truck meetup….did you know that there are now over 14 tasting rooms in downtown Napa? Trucks don’t even serve alcohol you idiot!! We need to look to cities like Portland that has a permanent area for food trucks and over 35 successful small businesses supporting the downtown community. Besides what else is the city of Napa doing to promote that lonely old spot where Copia used to be? Its been empty for 4 years now!

  8. Cities really need to look at Portland, Or and San Francisco on how to support food trucks the right way. There is no reason places like Napa and Santa Rosa can’t have a vibrant mobile food scene.

  9. This whole episode is a black eye for downtown Santa Rosa and the snooty restaurants located there. The restaurants should have invested in their own moble vender operation and gone out to meet the people. Now they look bad and will loose business.

  10. Well at least Munch Monday brought the trucks to the attention of a wider clientele, and most make it easy to find them via Facebook on any given day when you gotta satisfy a craving.

    Still not as nice as having several to choose from in one location.

  11. Well as far as Santa Rosa’s attempt:

    a. Starting an outdoor event in January is probably not a good idea.
    b. Having the event in a dirty, ugly parking lot is probably not a good idea.
    c. Not having any place to sit or relax while you are enjoying your lunch is probably not a good idea.

    In order for something to succeed, you must develop a following…timing is critical. Personally, I believe that the whole “downtown restaurant opposition” was a red herring. Restaurant management is marginal even in the best of times. They have much more to worry about than 5 RV’s showing up with burgers and burritos.

    The Sonoma event is being held at Sebastiani’s vineyards? Santa Rosa might want to get the hint. Trees, grass, benches, etc…are a good thing.

    1. Douglas, I disagree.

      There are a lot of nice winery events in the county.

      What was nice about Munch Monday’s was that it was about the food and friends. I personally did not care there was not a chair, I sat on the curb.

      As far as I remember, it only rained once.

      And January was fine, give it time to work out the kinks.

      All in all a good try.

      1. I froze my a$$ off every time I went there. Sitting on a concrete curb next to a gutter full of cigarette butts in not acceptable.

        And then people wonder why there are so many failures in the restaurant business.

        Why not move it to Railroad Square and reclaim that nice little park from the lay-abouts.

        1. I think you totally missed the point here, Douglas. The event didn’t fail because people didn’t like eating al fresco with no amenities (like yourself). Rather it failed because the city shut it down, apparently at the behest of downtown restaurants. But your comment serves to underline the shortsightedness of the downtown establishment; i.e., the trucks were competing on a totally different footing and many people (again, like you) did not like the parking lot and street curb ambiance that characterized the event. I’m sure you’re not alone and that many people would prefer to eat at a sit-down restaurant with service, tables, restrooms, etc. because they found it more comfortable. Likewise, many people pressed for time and/or budgetary reasons would have patronized the trucks. It’s called competition. Brick and mortar restaurants have a different comparative advantage of food trucks and vice versa. Sadly, it is consumers who have lost out here by having their eating choices curtailed. The whole thing to me seemed like the automotive industry asking that bicycles be banned because they represent unfair competition.

          1. David, you were making sense until the “The whole thing to me seemed like the automotive industry asking that bicycles be banned because they represent unfair competition.” part. What?!
            KISS. Sometimes less is more.

          2. Restaurants pay huge fees in order to maintain their establishments. Rents, at least minimum wages for employees, health standards with inspections of kitchens by public health agencies, food quality standards, and other assorted business costs, and actual federal, state and local taxes that are really paid to benefit all of us. Part of our quality of life in the United States is contingent upon standards and enforcement of those standards. Food trucks operate outside those standards and outside the law. Is it really in our best interest to lower our basic standards of life… just like we have “outsourced” so much else of our lives…just to get “cheap”. Consumers need to have choices, but we also need to provide a fair “playing field” for all who participate.

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