By Sumathi Reddy | WSJ.com
Even alcohol couldn’t save the Ladle of Love truck.
The truck — one of four that opened in the fall on a terrace outside of the shuttered Tavern on the Green restaurant — is terminating its contract with New York City’s Parks Department.
The truck, which is connected to a Westchester, N.Y.-based gourmet sandwich and soup shop, had its last weekend in operation on Sunday, said Philip Abramson, a spokesman for the Parks Department. The Ladle of Love truck had recently obtained a state license to serve alcohol, but it was not enough to keep it in business.
Leslie Lampert, owner of Ladle of Love, said the truck was just not profitable and even a liquor license wasn’t going to turn the venture around. “Clearly the winter months were very poor for the venue,” she said. What she expected to be a year-round operation turned out to have more of a three-month season, Lampert said.
Abramson said the truck’s owners determined they could not afford the $100,000 annual fee. He said there are no plans to replace the truck with a different one, leaving the park with three: the Rickshaw Dumpling truck, the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream truck and the Pera Turkish Taco truck.
All the trucks pay different amounts in annual fees based on their offers. Abramson said Rickshaw pays $45,000 a year, Pera pays $90,000 and Van Leeuwen pays $50,000.
In June, Pera became the first food truck in the city to receive a liquor license from the New York State Liquor Authority. A few weeks later Rickshaw and Ladle of Love followed suit.
David Weber, an owner of Rickshaw — which has four trucks and two restaurants — said their Tavern truck has been serving wine and beer for a couple of weeks. He said they are sad to see Ladle go but are hopeful that the three trucks that remain are enough to sustain the space.
“I think they were a great addition to the mix there but I think it’s still a super fun mix,” he said. “Street vending is a seasonal business and this summer has been great compared to this winter so yeah, we’re optimistic about it.”
The food truck lot, of sorts, launched with great fanfare in October. Things began slowly but some operators have said sales picked up as the weather began to warm.
The food trucks are part of Tavern’s transformation from one of the nation’s highest-grossing restaurants into a visitor’s center and gift shop. The city has said it will issue a request for proposals to operate the landmark restaurant — which closed at the end of 2009 — but has yet to do so.
Last year the city awarded the operating license to restaurateur Dean J. Poll. Labor negotiations between Poll and the New York Hotel Trades Council, which represents the restaurant’s workers, collapsed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has indicated that the restaurant may never fully open again, saying that it could depend on the success of its new incarnation.
Now that Ladle of Love is gone from the Tavern terrace, the truck is on the market. Lampert said she has already heard from interested buyers.The truck is believed to be the only electric food truck out there.
“It does come with a significant tax break because it’s eco-friendly, and it has under 500 miles on it, and it’s only nine or 10 months old,” she said.