Alpharetta, GA: Alpharetta to Test Out Food Truck Thursdays

Smyrna's Food Truck Tuesday in August 2012. Credit Hans Beltran

By Bob Pepalis |

Smyrna's Food Truck Tuesday in August 2012. Credit Hans Beltran
Smyrna’s Food Truck Tuesday in August 2012. Credit Hans Beltran

Alpharetta City Council plans to test how a “Food Truck Thursdays” event works for four weeks as its staff works to find a firm to run the weekly event if it proves successful in the city’s eyes.

Special Events Manager Kim Dodson had suggested a similar event when staff believed the council wanted a weekly event. So when a food truck vendor made an application for a season of weekly events, she brought that to council.

However, the council didn’t like that the event was driven by the vendor. And the proposal to serve beer at the event didn’t go over well.

On Monday night Dodson and Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard asked City Council what they wanted staff to do, using a set of questions to narrow it down. From those answers, they determined that council was interested in a weekly event, but on Old Roswell Street so Milton Avenue would not be closed. A vendor would be chosen to run the event with limited funding from the city. And the event would be evaluted monthly, and could be ended at any time.

Thursday had been considered to give potential restaurateurs a third good day of business after Friday and Saturday, said Mayor David Belle Isle, who is a proponent of a weekly event.

“Personally I’m fine with weekly if they think they can get the businesses to support it,” Belle Isle said

Councilman Jim Gilvin said cost is the other concern for him “other than the impact on traffic if we are shutting down the road each week.”

If residents were comfortable with shutting down the road and they could find a way to get the costs off of taxpayers, he’d be happy to have it.

Belle Isle was happy to put funds up that were necessary to get it started, expecting it to be self-sustaining by the time the City Center project opens.

Councilman Chris Owens said, “we pay for events downtown all the time right now. We certainly don’t pay for them every week…out of taxpayer funds.”

He was in favor of “jump starting” the event, but wanted a public space used that wasn’t as impactful on the city and traffic.

Drinkard said as soon as Milton Avenue was closed, its costs roughly $3,600 with staff time and other costs. On top of that come the costs of portable toilets and trash pickup.

“That price tag can climb pretty fast,” he said.

Staff was looking at using Old Canton Street. The cost for closing this street is a bit lower. The weekly Downtown Alpharetta Farmers Market will be moved to this location because demolition for City Center already is closing the Main Street parking lot next to City Hall where it has been held in past years.

Councilman D.C. Aiken asked why the city was willing to pay $3,600 for private companies to benefit?

“I’m pretty sure the food truck people were going to make some money on the deal,” he said.

“I have no problem helping our businesses,” Aiken said. But he had problems paying to close the road for these profit-making businesses.

Drinkard said the thought process was that the city would have to pay to start the event. More residents go into the stores and restaurants when the event is held. In year two, it would be time for the food trucks to “ante up.”

He said they “looked at it more from bringing an audience downtown at a time they are not coming donwtown.”

Drinkard and Dodson will bring a draft RFP (request for proposals) to council in a week. They  will have figures on how much it will cost to close Old Roswell Street and Old Canton Street so council has an idea how much will be saved by closing these roads instead of Milton Avenue. They also will move forward with starting the four-week test run of the Food Truck Thursdays.