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Mobile Food Festival Slaps Virtual Food Truck Ban in the Face

The response to SactoMoFo last weekend was so overwhelming, people complained about its popularity. In today's economy, this virtually outlawed industry is exactly what Sacramento needs right now.

Sacramento can't recognize a gift horse in the mouth and if it were a snake it would have bit it. Or something like that.

My point is, for some reason Sacramento virtually bans mobile food trucks while the people of this city are clearly clamoring for them.

As Doctor Who might say, "Food trucks are cool". And right now they are. And tragically unhip Sacramento is missing out on some great food. It's also missing out on the economic pie.

A mobile food truck festival was held this weekend at Fremont Park downtown and while a few of the trucks were from Sacramento, the rest had to be begged and pleaded in from the bay area. The bay area (and every other city for that matter) knows what time it is, but Sacramento lost its watch.

It's called SactoMoFo and no, I'm not kidding. Fremont Park, coming in at one square block, was packed.

Lines began at each of the 21 food trucks, snaked around in self-produced organism-like manners, and if stretched out straight would have each circled the globe four times.

Some "critics" complained via Twitter and Yelp about the 2+ hour-long lines and the lack of parking, and tried to call this first-ever-of-its-kind festival a failure because they were disappointed.

I can explain that. Sacramentans aren't used to long lines for anything. Because nothing in Sacramento is that popular. We also don't want to have to walk to anything, so if parking is more than two blocks away we start whimpering and crying for our baby bottles.

We probably also complained about the festival because street parking is limited to two hours, not enough time to stand in one of those lines. Which makes it feel like we drove down there for nothing.

The organizers promoted alternative transportation and plenty of people listened, but this event pulled visitors in all the way from the suburbs!

Now, I'm not saying I would stand in line for two hours for food because I wouldn't. And I didn't. But this was a brand new event, and I'm assuming the unpaid volunteer organizers had a time attracting food truck vendors to an unknown in terms of attendance , let alone whatever struggles are involved with getting permits for such a thing.

To me, a "failure" would have occurred if only 10 people showed up, rather than the estimated  10,000 or so.

Anyone with a business head would call this weekend's food event a raging success (or at least a "positive economic indicator") and start making plans to hold another one just like it with a few improvements to better accommodate the crowds.

Currently, food trucks are not allowed to park for more than 30 minutes and cannot operate after 6pm or 8pm, depending on the day. How asinine is that?

What about all the idiots stumbling out of bars in the wee hours and need food to help them sober up a bit? And who isn't hungry at 2am?

Before the virtual food truck ban, brick-and-mortar restaurants complained about trucks parking in front of their property and sitting there all day. So rather than working out a reasonable solution, the lawmakers chose to overreact and virtually ban food trucks. I say virtually ban because let's be honest, how many customers can you serve after parking, setting up and preparing food before having to close it down and move on because your 30 minutes are up?

Last year, I lamented our food truck situation and sung the praises of New York City, how this one truck, which is no doubt near many brick-and-mortar restaurants, is open until 4am. Economy stimulation, at its finest.

Meanwhile, back in Sacramento, a small handful of trucks are trying to do business despite the virtual ban, and they have to turn away customers because of the time limit.

Which I think is stupid.

Mini Burger Truck and Drewski's are very popular, despite the city's attempts at squashing them.

The economy is one big bruise right now, crying in pain, screaming for something, anything to heal it. What can be done, governments say, to get people out there spending their hard-earned cash again? What can we do to stimulate the economy?

And then here comes a grass roots movement, organized by citizens, not the government, that gets people off their duffs and outside and walking and willing to part with the contents of their wallets. We are talking about a people who do not part with their money easily.  We are cheap. We don't want to pay an extra dollar for anything. We are the coupon-clipping capitol of the US.

And yet, here we also are, standing in long-ass lines, eager to throw our money around, partly because it's cheap food, and partly because it's cool. But probably because it's cheap food.

With so many businesses struggling and going out of business, it's seems like a no-brainer to me that mobile food trucks should be allowed to thrive.

Festival-adjacent immobile restaurants allegedly reported a 200% increase in business Saturday during SactoMoFo. In other words, the food trucks BROUGHT THEM BUSINESS. They played second fiddle to a bunch of trucks, but you can bet they lapped it up.

Kinda like certain foreign countries that shall remain nameless (France) that pooh-pooh us while taking our tourism dollars and pooh-pooh us again as soon as our backs are turned.

You can also bet that restaurants will go back to whining about food trucks as if the competition will take away their business rather than draw a crowd so huge that impatient people will instead patronize their second choice.

Stodgy Sacramento needs to take notice of what happened this weekend and ease up on the current restrictions. It's clearly what the people want and these are no longer "roach coaches".

I just hope that this weekend's "disappointment" and "failure" is seen as a huge opportunity that needs a little tweaking.

You know, like hold it on Sunday when parking is unrestricted, use a bigger space like Old Sacramento, or the pedestrian-only section of K Street, and get more food trucks. And while it should be easier to persuade more out-of-town food trucks to come out here, why don't we stop banning this business and let the city begin to conjure up its own?

And how about the restaurants quit whining and make a visit to the If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em Department?

Mobile food is NOT a crime.

Or is it?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chewy Ine May 06, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Great article! I truly agree... Sometimes if its too much like right, Sacramentan's don't know how to deal with that... Interesting...

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