The city of Napa has announced its intention to find an alternative location for Food Truck Fridays for as long as the event’s original spot next to the Oxbow Public Market lacks a use permit, Barry Martin, the city’s community outreach coordinator, said Thursday.
The impromptu first-Friday-of-the-month gathering started in September, and grew to about 400 customers sampling high-quality fare from nine food trucks in March. But the “food rave,” as attendees call it, screeched to a halt last week due to its code violations.
“We’ve never had problems with the event,” Martin said. “It was the site that was the problem.”
Violations included the lack of a wheelchair-accessible ramp, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the presence of a fire pit within 15 feet of tents and trucks, among others.
The city’s concerns could take three months and more than $10,000 to address, said Andrew Siegal, owner of the event grounds, 728 First St., where his food truck, Dim Sum Charlie’s, is parked.
Siegal’s use permit for Dim Sum Charlie’s was filed in February and is scheduled for planning commission review in April. There seem to be no issues with that application, said Rick Tooker, city planning manager.
To buy time, the city hopes to offer up a private property for the April 1 event, Martin said. It remains to be seen whether the new site would be a permanent or temporary solution.
Either way, Siegal wasn’t certain whether the event would be ready in time for the April 1 gathering.
“It’s not up to the city to tell private businesses they can’t have a business on their property,” Siegal said. “My intention was to use that property to earn money.”
Siegal, who runs the event at a loss of $500 a month, hopes to eventually develop his property into a mixed-use building to include a restaurant, offices and condos.
“They’re hijacking the event from us,” he said.
In a later conversation, Siegal said he was working with East Napa businesses, such as Oxbow Public Market CEO Steve Carlin to find solutions.
“We are working with our neighbors the way we always have to make sure the event goes on,” he said. Still, “I’m not looking to just be a food truck promoter in another side of the city for the city.”
But the city insists it doesn’t want to commandeer the spontaneous gathering.
“The city would not be involved in running the event any more than in the past,” Martin said. “We just wanted to be proactive.”
The prospective alternative location is located in downtown Napa, Martin said. It’s still unknown if the owner would rent out the space to food truck drivers or not, he said.
The city planned to announce the location and make a formal offer Friday, he said.
“The food scene is important in our economy. We want this to be promoted, not hindered,” Martin said. “At the same time, everyone needs to go through the permitting process to keep up with liability issues that might come up.”
The city is responding to local outcries against the shuttering of the event.
After news broke this week that Food Truck Fridays might be put on hold, there was a foodie uprising fomented on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The group “Save the Napa Food Truck Up” had almost 800 “likes” as of 3 p.m. Thursday.
In response, the city posted its announcement online about the alternative location, which received mixed reviews at best from the event’s supporters:
“Napa has found a place that suits the City leaders for FTF ……..Vallejo!” wrote Mike Hall.
“I’m sure the business around Oxbow will be thrilled…” wrote Courtney Murray.
More upbeat, Gia Teresa Sempronio said, “Glad to hear it…WE ALL want to work with you on this issue:)”.
Despite the hassle, the controversy might have garnered the event more fans.
“The bloggers are talking about it, and the general frustration from the locals is mounting,” Siegal said. “It’s kinda cool.”