Restaurant Row

Downtown restaurants and food trucks need to find common ground for the delicious future of our city.

Hundreds in line | Photo John Burgess, PD

I spent a long time talking to a downtown restaurant owner today. He wasn’t particularly happy to hear from me at first. With all the public hubbub around the food trucks versus the downtown brick and mortars, I can’t exactly blame him. Over the last several weeks, I’ve heard and seen a lot of unpleasantness hurled around — both in the media and behind the scenes and it is no exaggeration to say that a lot of local food industry folks are frustrated, angry, scared, confused, defensive or generally pissed off about the whole thing.

Sides are being taken and lines drawn. Public stances and private rumors don’t make for a cozy family table. But here’s the bottom line: It’s time to come together.

Munch Monday — Santa Rosa’s mobile food extravaganza that’s been at the heart of both elation and controversy — is in jeopardy. Last week Eat Fleet organizers decided to move the event to a new location at Sonoma and D Streets to placate downtown restaurant owners who felt the weekly mobile lunchtime gathering was hurting their business.

But permits have not been filed by the city allowing for that new location yet. A short term special events permit was granted for the Munch Monday event through February at the location between the post office and downtown library. Those have now have expired putting the event in a temporary limbo.

Why? The city is taking a lot of heat from brick and mortars for permitting and publicizing the event that started in January 2011. At the heart of much of the consternation are rough feelings that downtown Santa Rosa business owners weren’t consulted about the trucks or given any say in their welcome to downtown. Some businesses felt their presence made for unfair competition. Seeing potential in the exploding food truck trend perhaps the city embraced the pitch too hastily. Mindful of vocal existing business interests, yet wanting to promote new reasons for people to come downtown, they’re now between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Meanwhile, the mobile vendors are struggling to come to terms with their own success. Demand is high, but most have ridiculously small margins between success and failure. Things like weather and flat tires wreak havoc. Food, staffing and cost of business are surprisingly steep. No diplomatic expert is being paid to champion their existence, although they’ve clearly brought a lot of folks downtown both for the novelty and for a change in their food scenery. Instead, time and energy has been spent trying to defend themselves. I’d argue wasted time that could have been better spent on expanding the event and finding creative ways to work with downtown restaurants. I’ve heard many of their ideas, which are good. They just need to find a receptive home and willing listeners.  And yes, they’ve made some mistakes, too.

Of course, the brick and mortars are facing their own more obvious challenges. The economy still stinks. February is always a terrible month for the restaurant business in Sonoma County. They’re frustrated with issues of parking and permitting downtown. Communication probably wasn’t what it should have been. I listened and talked to that downtown restaurant owner and came away with a better understanding and respect for his very real concerns and they’re not minor. There are very legitimate fears and concerns, and I appreciate the hard-work and livelihoods on the line.

But here’s the thing: The possible demise of Munch Monday isn’t going to keep anyone’s doors open. It won’t bring a flood of diners back downtown. Nor will it shut down the trucks. If Munch Monday goes away, it just makes for a void in the Santa Rosa food scene that will be filled elsewhere. Food trucks shouldn’t be a convenient scapegoat for other problems. And less money flowing into downtown isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

In my mind, there are some bigger issues to restaurants and food trucks can tackle together: Like downtown’s horrible parking situation, vulturous ticketing and creating a new unified front to diners. Talking smack in the media sounds desperate, no matter what side you’re on, and it’s just not tasty marketing.

As hard as they may be to see right now, there are some silver linings to be found in this sour pickle of a situation. The trucks have inspired downtown Santa Rosa restaurant owners to organize themselves into a formalized association. For years there’s been discussion about a restaurant cooperative, but the immediate need for a united voice, leadership and cooperative marketing has germinated this long-dormant seed.

Another hopeful ray of light is that some downtown restaurants are taking to heart some of the very things that make the food trucks so inspiring to eaters. This is a wake up call that resting on laurels is a bad plan and constant reinvention, great customer service and aggressive marketing work. When people are more excited to sit on a dirty curb and eat dim sum than to come into your restaurant, ask why.

No doubt there remains much more to told in this ongoing story – -because it’s a fight being waged in cities around the country. Downtown restaurant owners are slated to continue the conversation at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

But whatever your stand, it’s time to come together, start listening to each other and find a way to work together for the delicious future of our city.

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58 thoughts on “Restaurant Row

  1. i went to oahu and those food trucks are everywhere. they were graffiti filled trucks…i thought these were “eat at your own risk” places but i found out that the graffitis were autographed from patrons with their sharpie pens. they served the best shrimp plates i have ever tasted…the kahuku shrimps!
    wake up santa rosa! food trucks are now the new food scene…they even have food network food truck wars, travel channel reported that the city of portland, OR has hundreds of food trucks around their city. oh well, i guess rohnert park is food truck friendly town now. downtown santa rosa, where is that?

  2. Wow, what a ruckus! Last night I watched an episode on the Food Network. They were in San Francisco with various Food Trucks. AND YES, I KNOW SAN FRANCISCO IS BIGGER! The trucks were part of an orgainzed group that were always at a different location and this was supported by the city and locals. Also, there was one truck that I believe was designated as the roving restaurant truck.Why not have one of those. You can have different chefs from the B&M restaurants use that. That way they can be part of the scene and the money! Also this will get people to know their food.

    Also, why not different locations like various business parks. That way the B&M restaurants won’t be hurting. I know where I work, there’s only one place within walking distance and tons of businesses with employees.

    Just a thought!

  3. hey let’s face the music….good food will bring the customers; be it truck or restaurant….wake up and give the people what they want and not what u think they may like!

  4. First off, thanks for your positive approach to this issue. It IS important for us to have an end-game solution as a goal in our discussions. Merely throwing verbal bombs at others with different views won’t accomplish much.
    For what its worth, I come from a point of view of sympathy with the B&M groups concerns. Paying rent and being open more hours represents a commitment to the community that I appreciate. I’d prefer that the playing field be more even.
    That doesn’t mean the trucks can’t be in SR, or even at a site accessible to downtown. Its about balance and compromise. In my view the trucks serve the best “social need” in the free market when they arrive at places without any or without choices for lunch; like commercial/industrial parks, construction sites, even at a place like the county administration center.
    Should the b&m retailers adapt? Oh, heck yes! Sometimes at the industrial parks they’ll be just one b&m cafe that overcharges because they’re the only one around.
    How about the “time element”? Lunch hour is short , so NY-style deli lunch counter service, or places permitted for take out windows might address that.
    The City is, as usual, all wet on the downtown issue. Like many respondents on this blog, the parking issues are the overwhelming reason I avoid downtown SR as much as possible. There are maybe 3 stores at SR Plaza that still draw me, but that’s because there’s no alternative, and then, I can park in their lot. There are good restaurants downtown, but there’s so much good competition around the county that its easy for me to avoid them in favor of others in a ‘friendlier’ environment.
    Finally, to touch on another hot issue but in line with City complaints, the silly notion that reuniting Courthouse Square will be helpful is, in my opinion, completely wrong. Slowing traffic won’t help that timing issue at lunch. Many drivers will be reinforced in their minds to avoid downtown at all times, but the Taxpayers will no doubt be pleased to renovate a place for the indigent to hang out.

  5. I know this has already been said in the posts, but I want to reiterate it myself b/c I think it is soooo true. I work close to downtown. I RARELY, if ever, eat at B&M restaurants at lunchtime during the week, for 2 reasons. 1) I don’t have time 2) I don’t have enough disposable income to spend on the luxury of a sit-down meal, generally more expensive & requires tipping, etc. But, if I DO go to lunch at a restaurant downtown, it’s usually for a special occassion – some work function like a meeting, or a birthday, or it’s Friday, or whatever. The Munch Mondays are on a day I would rarely eat at a B&M restaurant, at a time I would rarely eat at a B&M restaurant, at a price I probably wouldn’t be able to get at a sit-down B&M restaurant. I agree with all the posts that said that if a restaurant is failing, it will fail regardless of the trucks, and if it is successful, the trucks probably aren’t making a significant dent in their business.

    Many, many of my friends are in the same position.

    Also, I’ll bet the food trucks are good for other downtown businesses, the bookstores, clothes stores, etc.

  6. The B&M restaurants need to wake up and respond to the trucks, instead of complaining. Welcome to the free market, now figure out how you can one up the competition, instead crying “foul” ! How about a takeaway window ? connect on Twitter / Facebook ? Add something new at lunch ! Give me a reason to decide to come to you and see how you’ve changed !

    1. I know, it’s as if just because the restaurants pay rent, and are downtown, they’re entitled to a cut of the action.

      Mafia, anybody?

    2. Agreed, well said. I still don’t know why La Vera, one of the top complainers, didn’t even want to try to move their own street cart over to the event to see how it would work out for them. They refused tomdo so…instead, the lobby a cMpaign to shut it down and the city does? That’s just weird…

  7. BOY, the PD seems to LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEE this topic.

    Biteclub seems to be doing a decent job of staying objective.

    But the rest of the news & editorial staffs seems to be milking this one all the way.

    In fact, I don’t think this would have been as MUCH of an issue if the PD had laid off. But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO … the PD loves to cause trouble in this town.

    God forbid any kind of harmony or cooperation should take place. And if it begins, look for the PD to jump and and MESS IT THE HECK UP!

    Thanks PD! Your doing just as great a job as the national media in helping to flushing this country!

  8. The only time I go downtown now is when the weather is nice and I can walk. I will not feed those meters.

  9. I am exhausted about hearing that the trucks aren’t from the county. Aside from dim sum charlies they are from the county. I also hate the stupid argument that they are dirty. They are all inspected by the health department

    1. Well Heather this is a controversial issue cause by the city and one person in particular. It is kind of hypocritical to have a model “Stay local, Shop local, and Eat local” and yet bringing in the out-of-towner to suck up more of the downtown economy. Thinking with their stomach and not considering all aspect of the avenue. People that dislike will obviously bad mouthing it and people that like will be defending it. Which one are you Heather?

    2. Heather the only ones saying they are dirty are the restaurant owners. Coming onto this site and saying that to try and garner support. It is the few restaurants who complained that drove the city to do their will. It is their negative PR campaign…those who are saying that are fals bloggers…they are really the restauranteurs…follow their accounts to see this is true! Oldest trick in the book…wolf in she eps clothing! Everyone knows it’s nonsense and what they are doing. I’ll post their real names shortly.

  10. My first thought upon hearing about the Mobile Munch Monday is “what do the established restaurants in that area think of this? So, I understand their concern.

    That being said, one is hard pressured to find good food and service in the area. Why? Outside of one or two dinning establishments, who really serves good food (and quickly, we are talking about a lunch hour now)?

    Also, I agree with the poster who was discouraged by “Just one?” a rude greeting. How about “Table for one?” that sounds better.

    That agressive parking ticketing is another reason to stay away from downtown and City Hall should look at that issue. I am not the only one who avoids the area because of excessive parking inforcement. Get a clue! Oh and good luck to all, we are all trying to make it in the tough economy.

  11. “And less money flowing into downtown isn’t in anyone’s best interest.” Food trucks bring money into downtown, and then drive away with it. A rather obvious point you seemed to miss in your blog. Many are not even from our county.
    “…Munch Monday is attracting diners who wouldn’t be going to a restaurant at all,” is an oxymoron. It seems to be a popular notion here that people eating at food trucks would otherwise stay on the couch watching Food Network and never go out, except for Munch Monday. The money spent at the out-of-town trucks is money that would have otherwise gone to local businesses, who pay local employees, taxes and fees.

    What taxes, rent or fees food trucks pay, if any. I’ve heard the advertisements on KSRO, and although they do make a small mention of B&Ms, the point of the message is to promote the food trucks. B&Ms do not benefit at all from those ads. Who pays for those ads that seem to run all the time? It seems to me The City is paying to promote businesses that do not benefit The City.

    1. I think you are wrong in this assessment. I, for one, and my boyfriend, our roommate, and many of our friends who often join us on Munch Monday, would not otherwise be eating out at a restaurant for lunch on Monday. We would just eat at home, as we have been doing. The reason we make a point to patronize the food trucks is they are fun, they are interesting, they are inexpensive, and they are fast. We like them and hope they get to stay.

      The amount of people who are “switching” from restaurants to trucks on Monday afternoons is likely a very small group. Monday is the day you eat leftovers from the weekend in your office while catching up on work and messages from the weekend. If the trucks were around on a Friday, I could understand the uproar better.

        1. BTW — I work downtown, and have for 8.5 years. I eat out for lunch plenty, I bring my lunch less too. I have not hit up the trucks, but I really wanted to and meant to. People in my office have, and have raved about it. They rarely eat at restaurants, and usually just get take out if they haven’t brought lunch.

          I think its great, and it makes people think about coming downtown in general, even if its not for the trucks. That’s great for all downtown businesses!

          Besides, If you want a sit down meal, a truck isn’t going to substitute, and vice versa! We do have some great delis and take out options, but variety is key!

    2. Food trucks pay taxes. Next time you visit one look for the city’s certificate of payment. By law they are suppose to be posted. Food trucks pay rent for a kitchen that they have to prepare and store their food in. Food trucks pay fees as in a DMV fee. Ask a truck operator how much that bill every year. Food truck owners and their employee’s have also been known to go out after their munch monday shift to local establishments.
      Brian, your claims are baseless and not helping further this most recent blog post about coming together.

      1. My bad. “What taxes, rent or fees food trucks pay, if any.”(Supposed to be a ? at the end) Just curious to how that all that works.
        I am all for fair competition, but really, who pays for the ads?? Maybe its their DMV registration fees, Chris.

  12. Parking in Santa Rosa is easy, there is parking EVERYWHERE!! Yes you may have to walk a few blocks but big deal! There are how many pay lots downtown? Are they ever full? I am so tired of hearing people talk about parking as an issue. If you can’t figure out how a parking meter works then park in the lot.

    1. I agree. Though I live walking distance from downtown, and do often walk, there are also times when driving is necessary. I have yet to EVER find myself without a parking option within 2-3 blocks of my destination. If we lived in S.F., I’d be lucky to park 10 blocks away.

    2. Is this the problem? Not parking right in front of the place you want to?

      In any other city, you’d be lucky if you could park within 10 blocks (see above) and not pay $2.00 per hour (like in SF).

  13. All good points. I live in Sonoma. Wish the trucks would come our way. We have a number of taco trucks so another cuisine would be welcomed. We have our Tues. night farmer’s market with plenty of food trucks. The good news is it gets people to the square. I know a number of businesses stay open later to take advantage of the additional foot traffic. Parking is always challenging in Santa Rosa. I think that is a bigger issue than the food trucks. Look at places like the Russian River Brew pub. It is packed all the time. I like your statement about when people are more willing to eat on a dirty curb than in a restaurant you need to figure out why. Most times it is quality of food, reasonable pricing and quick. Most folks don’t have the luxury of a long lunch.

  14. Well said! I too do not think the food trucks will run the downtown restaurants out of business. I would think most of these restaurants make their money during the dinner hour, when people actually have time to sit down and enjoy a meal. I cannot tell you the last time I have had a job where I have been able to go downtown, sit in a restaurant, eat lunch, then go back to work. Food trucks area wonderful option for those of us who do not have the luxury of the hour lunch break. Most restaurants can’t guarantee that they will get you out in enough time (after you have fought for parking, of course) to make it back to the office.

    I will patronize food trucks while I am in a hurry, and I will patronize the brick & mortars when I have the time to sit down. I know it isn’t “downtown” per se, but why not bring the trucks over off of North Dutton near Tesconi circle where Street Eatz is on Thursday? So many of us work in offices here and there is very little access to good food.

  15. I agree with most everything that’s been said here. Personally, hubby and I will go downtown for dinner, but only go there for lunch once or twice per year. (There’s that damn parking thang again!!) I would love to go to the food truck venue if there was decent parking available. Unfortunately, I am unable to bike and live too far to walk, so I need parking. I think the Vet’s or fairground parking lot would be pretty central, and there’s a prettly large lot in front of Food for Less. Heather, if you can get your food quickly, you can spend the few minutes to drive from downtown once a week couldn’t you? And again, not EVERYbody works downtown. Santa Rosa and the county really need to loosen up with their permits, (except for the sanitation part, of course). Don’t we need more businesses here? Don’t these vendors pay TAXES?? Let’s get together and figure out a way to make it work. We’ll all be ahead if we do.

    1. I don’t mind leaving downtown, but keep in mind that the trucks have a number of regular stops (near the airport, over in Roseland in the executive center) the rest of the week.

  16. “I also support the food trucks, but not downtown, unless it’s done in a manner that includes the downtown business community as a whole.”
    …Really, the City has to promote Debra’s perms for her to support the program? Selfish.

    Restaurant owners: Did anyone bother to notice that this event is promoting both food trucks AND restaurants?

    Just because the food trucks got more attention, that doesn’t mean the City is promoting food trucks over restaurants.

  17. I like this: “When people are more excited to sit on a dirty curb and eat dim sum than to come into your restaurant, ask why.”

    Let the people choose! Free enterprise!

  18. I’ve been to two Munch Mondays and when I looked around I saw a lot of people that just would not ever be going to a downtown restaurant for lunch. Me for starters, I was on my own, I hate fast food but wanted a nice, tasty, well made meal with good ingredients. I don’t have the time to go to a B&M restaurant at lunch, nor would I feel particularly welcome as a solo diner. I’m always asked before being seated. “Just one??”

    Umm yeah, “just little ol’ me.” Not exactly welcoming.

    I’ve also seen adults with a small flock of small children at Munch Mondays, enjoying themselves heartily. The kids can move around and play while waiting for their food, and the adults with them don’t have to get all stressed out that the kids are bothering other diners in a restaurant.

    So I think the city and the B&M owners might consider that Munch Monday is attracting diners who wouldn’t be going to a restaurant at all. Different clientele.

  19. Having worked in the restaurant industry for over 20 years and having to leave it due to the fact i could not earn a livable wage I support the truck movement. I am currently looking at getting a food cart so I, as a culinary arts graduate, can reenter the career field of my choice. I fully embrace the idea of local farm to table concepts employed by Trucks such as Fork catering. With meetings about farm practices, restaurants trying to survive, and a cart scene that is looking for a home it sounds as though the city really needs to move along the idea of a permanent local market where all can work together to make a vibrant food scene come to life. What has happened to the plan of a permanent market being built either in RR Square or by the Fairgrounds? The RR square idea could be beneficial in the long term with the development of SMART. A local market, good restaurants for those who prefer to sit, and a cart scene for those who prefer the casual atmosphere could be a big win for the downtown area.

  20. I agree with you about the parking issues, Heather. I’ve had a business downtown for 9 years now, and I cannot tell you the number of parking tickets I have paid for my clients in an effort to keep them coming back. And the number of quarters I have popped into the meter boxes for people who can’t figure it out!!!!
    Perhaps you could help the local food situation by highlighting various restaurants lunch specials.. I know the local places I go every day serve me within my needed time frame. And they all have specials!
    I also support the food trucks, but not downtown, unless it’s done in a manner that includes the downtown business community as a whole. We are all affected.
    Roseland, the Vet’s Building, the county courthouse neighborhood, all would be good places. Why not have the food trucks move around the city? That way they have continued business, and are not a permanent drain on local business owners who pay massive overhead to “sit on their laurels” as you put it.

    1. I think that moving around is a good idea. But I guess that I honestly think the restaurants are being a bit short-sighted. I’m NOT pro-trucks…I’m pro food. And I really think that the trucks bring something to downtown that everyone can benefit from.

      Yes, in the early days the trucks were a HUGE draw. They’re trendy and fun. Lots of people wanted to check them out.

      But as the novelty wears off, I think that the brick and mortars would find some common ground in working together. I’ve heard talk of the trucks featuring chefs or foods from the brick and mortars. I loved the idea of there being a way to promote downtown restaurants at the event with incentives to come back downtown.

      I’m not the only person who has actually eaten at downtown restaurants MORE since Munch Monday, mainly because I’ve walked by on Monday and then come back another day. I just feel like it is an opportunity that’s about to be lost.

      I’m pro restaurants and pro-downtown brick and mortars. I’m against losing an opportunity for downtown Santa Rosa. I wish people would hear that.

    2. Can’t something radical be done about the predatory parking? The parking predators are like vultures, but at least vultures wait until you’re dead, most of the time.

  21. Thanks Heather, What folks really need to come to terms with and understand is that competition is a good thing, and not something to be afraid of. Sure a coffee cart parked outside of a coffee house is one thing but I feel we are all offering something different. We are starting a food truck round up St Pattys Day in Sebastopol called Third Thursdays, which may become weekly. We will be at the O’Reilly Building from 11:30-2 on 116. We are more than happy to work with local restaurants in any sort of promotional activity that may support their business. It is all about working together and communication. I am am sorry people feel hurt over this and I hope we can all figure out a solution. Speaking to folks who come to our truck, they say they came because of us, not because they saw us en route to a restaurant. Yes it is a trend and a new and exciting concept that hopefully becomes more accepted.

  22. Why don’t the B&M’s get a little cart or a little van, or even just a little table where the trucks are and have 1 or 2 popular dishes all prepacked and ready to go? I can envision it right now….Flavor, Mac’s, and Ale works, with just a few small prepacked items (say a half order of chicken or half a sandwich, with a tiny salad ), I could just grab and go! It would give me an opportunity to try one of their popular dishes. There has got to be a way to keep the food hot or cold for a while. If they just try it and and do a few items the first time, that was if it does not fly, there is not a huge loss involved.

    I realize it is not as easy as it sounds, but I just wanted to throw an idea out there, if you can’t beat them, then you join them, right?

  23. It’s one day per week, and Monday is the slowest day of the week for dining out isn’t it? No restrauant is going to go out of business because of one day and one meal time. If a restraunt is doing well they will stay in business regaurdless. They sound like a bunch of spoiled children wanting everything and not wanting to share. I hope the city doesn’t give into their temper tantrum. How nice that people can gather and have a bite of lunch in an open area and talk about the days business etc.

  24. resturants need to run specials,comperable to the food trucks,be fast & cheap.The grab-n-go food is great if you have a half hour lunch.In a resturant you lose about 45 min.So,you need to come together to have the best of both worlds.Also the parking does suck in downtown…….

  25. Well WEll WEll! Great article Heather. Please go to my website and signup for my facebook we will continue over

  26. Why don’t the B&M’s get a little cart or a little van, or even just a little table where the trucks are and have 1 or 2 popular dishes all prepacked and ready to go? I can envision it right now….Flavor, Mac’s, and Ale works, with just a few small prepacked items (say a half order of chicken or half a sandwich, with a tiny salad ), I could just grab and go! It would give me an opportunity to try one of their popular dishes. There has got to be a way to keep the food hot or cold for a while. If they just try it and and do a few items the first time, that was if it does not fly, there is not a huge loss involved.

    I realize it is not as easy as it sounds, but I just wanted to throw an idea out there, if you can’t beat them, then you join them, right?

  27. It’s one day per week, and Monday is the slowest day of the week for dining out isn’t it? No restrauant is going to go out of business because of one day and one meal time. If a restraunt is doing well they will stay in business regaurdless. They sound like a bunch of spoiled children wanting everything and not wanting to share. I hope the city doesn’t give into their temper tantrum. How nice that people can gather and have a bite of lunch in an open area and talk about the days business etc.

  28. I’ve worked downtown for a little less than two years. I try and experience the restaurants and food often. Having visited almost all downtown restaurants, their menus get tired, expensive, and dull.

    The food trucks bring something new and fresh to the food scene downtown. Now the B&M’s are trying to shut it down because they’re losing revenue? It’s not that they’re losing my sale, they’re not earning it in the first place, see above.

    I’ve been to the much bigger scale food truck venues, Off the Grid, Fort Mason, SF. There are 20+ food trucks there. It will start again in March on Fridays. I’d rather drive there and eat lunch than choose any place in SR, only because the downtown places don’t innovate. Korean BBQ burritos, freshly fired creme brulee, dim sum & noodles all in one place, all CHEAP. Nowhere in SR is this available.

  29. Completely disagree with you. I don’t think you’re presenting both sides, you’re taking the sides of the food trucks, not on the side of the brick and mortars, as usual. You’re trying to present the case that the food trucks are the “little guys” against the Goliaths – ie, the restaurant owners downtown.

    I do not buy it.

    Destroying the mostly mom and pop lunch scene downtown and creating large black holes where long established restaurants existed is just…well it’s wrong. Shame on you.

    I sent a note to the Economic Development office a week ago. I don’t have a pony in this race, I don’t eat downtown but I am a concerned citizen.

    My solution was to bring the trucks to the Vets building on Wednesday where the Wednesday Farmer’s Market is. The Vet’s building is an easy bike ride, or short car trip from downtown, or about a 20 min walk.

    Why not do that?

    That would be a much better solution for everyone.

    1. “I sent a note to the Economic Development office a week ago. I don’t have a pony in this race, I don’t eat downtown but I am a concerned citizen.”

      Yeah, sure…

    2. First off, I’m on the side of the Santa Rosa dining scene.

      My first question: Can you tell me what black holes exactly you’re talking about? And what long-established restaurants you’re talking about? This blog is all about supporting the local food scene, so I disagree with your assertion, but in the interest of trying to create a dialogue, let me say this…I don’t personally agree that having the food trucks downtown one day a week will be the death of the mom and pops — and i’ve talked with a number of VIABLE mom and pops who aren’t that concerned about the competition the food trucks represent. They are frustrated with how the situation went down and how the city has responded. They are frustrated with the all the red tape and permitting nightmares. They are frustrated with the parking situation.

      I agree that there are some restaurants downtown that are failing — but they were in trouble long before the trucks arrived. I just don’t agree that we cut off our nose to spite our face. Getting rid of the trucks won’t save restaurants that are failing anyway.

      I think some of the noise is very reactionary, and my point in this article is to talk and try to reach some kind of agreement. Sure, okay, maybe the trucks move — but then what about the restaurants near wherever they move? What about all the cars now driving there?

      To me, it seems like a win-win for everyone if we take a breath, talk and find some real solutions.

  30. Why don’t they use the parking lot at Rosaland Village. City’s trying to redevelop there anyway. Downtown Santa Rosa just isn’t large enough and the demand just isn’t there to warrant the number of trucks. They could put in commissary facilities and turn the former Albertsons spot into food truck heaven. Also, whats with the lack of trucks around late at night? I guess they make more money catering to the upscale lunch crowd but damn what I wouldn’t to for something other than the usual suspects open past 10 pm. Food trucks make 3rd shift in a big city bearable, but not so much here.

    1. La Texanita and Street Eatz were showing up downtown late night.

      I like your idea about Roseland Village — but again, to me it doesn’t answer the question of the larger downtown population having access. If I have to get into my car to drive to a food truck, it kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

  31. A great look at both sides Heather. You’re right, though. Turning the trucks away doesn’t help anyone’s business. I hope, at the very least, downtown restaurant owners, and actually all business owners in downtown see that there is a need to entice people to come to downtown Santa Rosa, and that it can be done. But some creative thinking needs to happen, and open minds need to open to new possibilities. I keep my fingers crossed.

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Sonoma County Food Forum

Inaugural Sonoma County Food Forum focuses on ag, food and economy