H & 8th Outdoor Food Market Makes Successful Relaunch Friday in Oklahoma City

People gather along Hudson Avenue between N &th and 8th streets for H&8th Friday, September 30, 2011. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman Doug Hoke

BY STEVE LACKMEYER| NewsOK.com

People gather along Hudson Avenue between N &th and 8th streets for H&8th Friday, September 30, 2011. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman Doug Hoke

Health inspectors and food truck operators cheerily went about their business Friday night against the backdrop of fiddle music as the H&8th outdoor food market was successfully relaunched in MidTown.

The festival gathering, hosted by Elemental Coffee at NW 8 and Hudson, was a far cry from the first attempt in August that was raided by 27 state and city agents and inspectors.

Crowds arrived early and within the first hour after opening at 8 p.m., more than 200 people were lined up at the string of food trucks lining Hudson Avenue. Twice as many food trucks were participating Friday compared to the first market, and the second time around included live music performed by Kyle Dillingham and Horseshoe Road.

Sasan Pilehvar, an inspector with the Oklahoma City/County Health Department, arrived early and by 8 p.m. determined all of the operators to be in compliance with state and city regulations.

“All of them are excellent, well-built units,” Pilehvar said. “I’ve been with the department for eight years, and before that I ran a doughnut shop in Midwest City. I know how difficult it is for these guys to make a living. There has to be a healthy respect for what each side is doing.”

When H&8th was first launched in August, Laura Massenat, co-owner of Elemental Coffee, found herself having to disappoint scores of people when the event was shut down under a deluge of citations ranging from improper extension cords to disputed permits.

One of those who’d hoped to enjoy the August festivities, designer Matthew McLarty, said he was dining at nearby Joey’s Pizzeria when news of the shutdown spread through the restaurant via social media on patrons’ phones.

McLarty, a board member of the MidTown Association, had helped promote the market via Twitter and Facebook and was disappointed by the enforcement action.

“That next morning I saw all the upheaval on social media, I read about it in the paper, and it was very disconcerting,” McLarty said.

“The inspectors didn’t seem to be interested in helping these people out and making the event a success.”

McLarty said the city/county health department, ABLE Commission and the city need to embrace the emergence of food trucks and markets like H&8th and adapt local laws to prevent a repeat of the August shutdown.

“This is going to happen — get used to it,” McLarty said. “This is important. It starts to create an identity for an area like this. It provides pieces of the puzzle Oklahoma City is looking for. These events are going to spread.”

Massenat, who expressed frustration at the extra expense and effort required to stage the market, was beaming as the festivities got under way.

“I’m glad,” she said. “It was worth it.”