Athens, GA: Despite ordinance, food trucks not biting at opportunity

A customer orders from a food truck in Athens, Ga. (Photo/Greyson Ike)

By Heather Bryan  |  The Red and Black

A customer orders from a food truck in Athens, Ga. (Photo/Greyson Ike)
A customer orders from a food truck in Athens, Ga. (Photo/Greyson Ike)

An ordinance passed by the city government of Athens-Clarke Country in early November now allows food trucks to apply for a permit from the county’s Central Services office to set up shop in downtown Athens from Thursday mornings at 7 a.m. to Friday mornings at 2:30 a.m.

However, despite strong support for the ordinance from citizens and truck owners during town hall meetings, no food trucks in the Athens-Atlanta area have signed up for a permit.

Central Services office is in charge of licensing the permits, but they do not market or advertise passed ordinances, including the one that allows food trucks. Therefore, almost all responsibilities that come with participating fall on the food truck operators, including knowing the opportunity exists. Vendors would also have to set up in very specific spots downtown on a first-come-first-serve basis, after deciding whether or not one night a week is worth $200 annually plus the application fee.

Mix’D Up, an Atlanta-based food truck, participated in an Athens food truck festival last September. Brett Eanes, owner and operator, said they are aware of the recent ordinance in Athens, but believes it should be more organized and reasonably priced. Eanes said he takes issue with the first-come-first-serve nature of the event. There is no sign-up list before the event, and any food truck that sets up before the limit is reached can stay the entire time. Eanes said if he drove to Athens and discovered he did not have a spot, he would lose “four hours of the day, and a loss of serious revenue.”

Eanes said Mix’D Up is interested in participating, but would prefer a way to sign up and secure a spot before possibly wasting resources.

Even local food trucks have yet to take advantage of the ordinance. Ryan Morgan, owner and chef of Streets Café, explained that he went to the meeting where the ordinance was passed, even expressing excitement for the ordinance on the company’s Facebook page, but is not sure whether the winter season is the right time for food trucks.

“The winters are always a real struggle, and it would be hard to manage employees for only one day a week,” he said.

At least one food truck in the area has expressed interest in selling on Thursdays. Saphir Grici, the owner of the Holy Crepe food truck in Athens, said he was excited to participate. He had known about the ordinance, but thought he had to wait until January to apply for a permit, delaying his application, according to a post on Holy Crepe’s Facebook page.

Grici said the location with plenty of foot traffic would offer an opportunity for him to serve crepes all day long and discover peak hours and popular items.