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Sacramento Mobile Food Festival Slaps Virtual Food Truck Ban in the Face

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 stupid 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.

SactoMoFo, sacramento, mobile food, food trucks, street food

Fremont Park, coming in at one square block, was packed.

SactoMoFo, sacramento, mobile food, food trucks, street foodYou can’t tell, but every person standing up in this picture is in a line for a food truck.

And doing something on their cell phone.

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” bitched and moaned 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.

SactoMoFo, sacramento, mobile food, food trucks, street food

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…

SactoMoFo, sacramento, mobile food, food trucks, street food

… 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. The picture below was taken at 2am.

halal cart NYC, street food, street cart, food truck, mobile food truckEconomy 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.

sactomofo, sacramento, mobile food, food trucks, drewskisThe 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?

sactomofo, sacramento, food trucks, mobile food trucks, curry up now

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.

sactomofo, sacramento, food trucks, mobile food trucks, mobile food sacramento

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.

sactomofo, sacramento, food trucks, mobile food trucks, chairmanbaoWith 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.

 

SactoMoFo, sacramento, mobile food, food trucks, street foodFestival-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”.

Does this look like the inside of a roach coach to you?

SactoMoFo, sacramento, mobile food, food trucks, street food

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?

SactoMoFo, sacramento, mobile food, food trucks, street food

 

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50 Comments

  1. [...] of food trucks and how cool they were and why doesn’t Sacramento have them? Since then, a movement began (even though city ordinances continue to virtually outlaw them) and now we’ve got food trucks [...]

  2. [...] know, the same thing happened when I went to the first SactoMoFo Food Truck Festival. They ran out of food and those trucks that kept going had 2 hour-long lines, so I didn’t get [...]

  3. [...] city ordinance that restricts food truck parking to no longer than 30 minutes is pretty ridiculous. And we’re not the only ones who know how much the local economy needs a mobile-food-shot-in-th…. (Psst, city council, stop postponing this conversation already!) Bacon? Yes, please. [...]

  4. I love food trucks, they always have the best food, it’s cheap and it is made to eat with your hands while walking around. My ex has been tossing around the idea of doing the food truck thing for years, he is an awesome cook, but we have so many rules and regulations it isn’t cost effective.

  5. joanna jenkins says:

    I am a food truck junkie and have several faves here in LA. Many of the restaurants here also figured it out and actually got trucks to go along with their restaurants (so they stopped bitching). A few of the crappy chain restaurants still complain but the growling seems to have died down. And food trucks have the ABC rating system now too which is a plus.

    I LOVE the festival name :-) I might not have stood in line for 2 hours but I’d have definitely checked it out.

    xo jj

    1. From what I’ve heard, these guys have an inspection system of sorts too that are just as stringent as what brick and mortar restaurants have.

      1. RuEtta says:

        That they do. A rigorous inspection. You are also required to take a course and pass a test in food safety and have commercial liability insurance. Depending on what type of cart you have, you may need to get something from the housing/planning dept, too. Oh, and your sellers permit from the Board of Equalization, your DBA, which has to be run in newspapers, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Sacramento required some BS DNA test. Or Full Body Scan. It is misery dealing with all of the different depts, who all say different things about the same thing. And lets not forget the blessed 4 sink set up!

  6. Kelly says:

    This is big down here in So. Cal – just drove by a sign advertising for this weekend’s next mobile food party… I have not tried it yet but I plan to.
    I’ve Become My Mother
    Kelly’s Ideas
    Amazing Salvation

    1. Doesn’t “Mobile Food Party” just SOUND awesome? Or maybe just because it includes my two favorite words. Food. And Party! Mobile just adds a whole new layer of awesome. :)

  7. [...] unless you live out of town (you’re forgiven), somehow haven’t seen the news or you just live under a rock, SactoMoFo was a huge raging success. Too much so, I’d even say.  But even that’s a good [...]

  8. SactoMoFo was a huge success in my opinion! and I completely agree that economically speaking food trucks could be great business for Sac! all of the traditional restaurants and bars near Fremont park were packed on Saturday — it was a win-win-win!
    ciao & chow –
    Heidi & Atticusuncensored
    http://www.atticusuncensored.com
    “commentary to give you paws…”

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many bloggers publish something on the same topic. This is clearly a hot topic!

  9. [...] “Sacramento Mobile Food Festival Slaps Virtual Food Truck Ban in the Face” and related p… (nannygoatsinpanties.com) [...]

  10. Lori says:

    This was a brilliant piece, Margaret. Truly. Now, everyone send it to your councilperson along with your note supporting mobile food trucks and coming up with a solution that takes cow-town and makes it cool-town!

    1. Amen to the cool-town, sister!

      And thanks for the kudos, Lori. :)

  11. Mobile food trucks should NOT be a crime. They are AWESOME. And, who the heck decided they should close by 6-8pm? Um…drunk people at 2am NEED mobile food trucks!

    1. 6-8pm makes no sense, but then, neither does the ordinance. Which makes it highly suspicious in my book.

  12. Nezzy says:

    Businesses that spark the economy like these travelin’ restaurants has to be a plus to any city so what’s your city council somkin’??? Just sayin’…..

    God bless and have a wonderful day! :o)

    1. I suspect they got outlawed without any knowledge of best practices of other cities to see how well they can work out.

  13. [...] unless you live out of town (you’re forgiven), somehow haven’t seen the news or you just live under a rock, SactoMoFo was a huge raging success. Too much so, I’d even say.  But even that’s a [...]

  14. Indian food, no less? I would SO be in that line! I wish we had good food trucks here!

    Oh did you stop by my site to see your royal hat pic yet? I think yours turned out the best!

    1. I LOVE my new hat! Thank you! We should have more hats over here on this side of the pond. And the more ridiculous the better.

  15. Steven Caldecourt says:

    A friend and I used to own a ‘food truck’ (in the UK they are known as burger vans) and took it to the Stonehenge music festival. I was always amazed that people would queue for such a long time, mind you, we were selling extremely potent Scrumpy Cider as well as food!

    1. Scrumpy cider sounds awesome!

  16. Slommler says:

    I think the food trucks are a stroke of genius!! Can’t believe they have banned them. That is stupid!!! But you have already stated that they aren’t known for their brilliance!! Ha!! Hopefully they will soon re-think their position!!
    Hugs
    SueAnn

    1. I hope so, Sue Ann. And sooner, rather than later.

  17. Clarkn0va says:

    Nail on the proverbial head with this article.

    Sacramento “…tragically un-hip?” Oh, you don’t know the half of it: indie music clubs mired in red tape and shuttered. A ban on show flier’s on telephone poles. Over-zealous police suppression of “loud” (read: youth-oriented) events while real crimes are taking place a few blocks over. Desolate streets in the urban core after 9:00pm. Big ass Tonka toy trucks with dangling (and ironically, homoerotic) plastic testicles attached to them, etc, etc.

    There’s a reason this town rates so high on the Forbes “Misery Index”; there ain’t nothing we’re allowed to do here.

    And oddly enough, if seems that there are even certain “plugged-in” people within the so-called underground alternative scene that seem content with maintaining Sac’s unfussy, small town vibe. And that would be all well and good if they weren’t also under the delusion that this town was some sort of hip and happening “World Class City” that was “…really growing!” It ain’t. And under the sort of feckless, lack-of-imagination and fear-of-fun stewardship that dictates things like food cart regulations, Sacramento will never truly be a city proper.

    No, rather it will continue to be exactly what it is; a trashy lil’ town that would rather play to loud, obnoxious and vulgar suburban douche bags, frat boys, snorting sorority sisters, and people with abysmal taste in art, books, movies and music (if there exists any at all). Never mind the countless denizens that call Midtown and Downtown home – placate ‘em with a dive bar or two while we wine and dine the stretch Hummer set at a “classy” new “ultra lounge” so they’ll hopefully sign a lease for one those new pre-fab lofts we tore a cool old building down for.

    Ironically, it wouldn’t be very hard to set-up food cart blocks here like the ones they have in Portland and San Francisco. Sacto’s urban core is marred with half-empty, street level parking lots (they seemingly out-number the high-rises here). Away from the restaurants, these makeshift food cart cities could provide a welcome bit of alternate vitality this town so, so desperately needs.

    But, good luck getting that to happen. Or anything out-of-the-box revolutionary, for that matter. Sacramento likes things boring. And controlled. And not-at-all challenging. Ultimately, this town’s mentality towards it’s own culture can best be reflected in the stucco color scheme it’s picked-out for itself: beige. You know, the color of baby shit. Soothing, sleepy, baby shit.

    In other words, tragically un-hip.

  18. Clarkn0va says:

    Nail on the proverbial head with this article.

    Sacramento “…tragically un-hip?” Oh, you don’t know the half of it: indie music clubs mired in red tape and shuttered. A ban on show flier’s on telephone poles. Over-zealous police suppression of “loud” (read: youth-oriented) events while real crimes are taking place a few blocks over. Desolate streets in the urban core after 9:00pm. Big ass Tonka toy trucks with dangling (and ironically, homoerotic) plastic testicles attached to them, etc, etc.

    There’s a reason this town rates so high on the Forbes “Misery Index”; there ain’t nothing we’re allowed to do here.

    And oddly enough, if seems that there are even certain “plugged-in” people within the so-called underground alternative scene that seem content with maintaining Sac’s unfussy, small town vibe. And that would be all well and good if they weren’t also under the delusion that this town was some sort of hip and happening “World Class City” that was “…really growing!” It ain’t. And under the sort of feckless, lack-of-imagination and fear-of-fun stewardship that dictates things like food cart regulations, Sacramento will never truly be a city proper.

    No, rather it will continue to be exactly what it is; a trashy lil’ town that hangs plays host as a booze park for loud, obnoxious and vulgar suburban douche bags, frat boys,, snorting sorority sisters, and people with abysmal taste in art, books, movies and music (if there exists any at all). Never mind the countless denizens that call Midtown and Downtown home – placate ‘em a dive bar or two while we wine and dine the Hummer-limo set at one of the new “ultra lounges” so they’ll hopefully sign a lease for one those new pre-fab lofts we tore a cool old building down for.

    Ironically, it wouldn’t be very hard to set-up food cart blocks here like the ones they have in Portland and San Francisco. Sacto’s urban core is marred with half-empty, street level parking lots (they seemingly out-number the high-rises here). Away from the restaurants, these makeshift food cart cities could provide a welcome bit of alternate vitality this town so, so desperately needs.

    But, good luck getting that to happen. Or anything out-of-the-box revolutionary, for that matter. Sacramento likes things boring. And controlled. And not-at-all challenging. Ultimately, this town’s mentality towards it’s own culture can best be reflected in the stucco color scheme it’s picked-out for itself: beige. You know, the color of baby shit. Soothing, sleepy, baby shit.

    In other words, tragically un-hip.

    1. I somehow get the feeling that you feel more passionately about this than I do. :) I know there are some people out there trying, but for now I feel like we are sometimes just a red-headed stepchild. No offense to any red-headed stepchildren out there.

  19. RuEtta says:

    Even Goats are on board with the food trucks! http://austinfoodcarts.com/2011/02/01/giggling-goat/

  20. RuEtta says:

    I read that the ban came about because a few residents didn’t like the loud Mexican music, blaring from a truck parked near them. I don’t know what area it was, just that City Council said, Ok, we’ll ban them!

    Sacramento has to be the stupidest town on the map. We can’t even fake being a decent city. We are last to jump on anything, and usually it is when the trend has passed. Stupid! (Pea sized Dixon had cable tv 5 years before Sac did! Sac was still shaking their heads saying “Nope, its a fad”)

    The hoops one has to jump thru to get a food truck or cart made street legal, would astound you. I know, I am in the process and it is pissing me off big time. They put up so many roadblocks that it would just be easier to say F it and stay on unemployment.

    Anyone know of a commissary in Sac that will accept a cart, not a truck? Does anyone even know what I’m talking about? If you have a mobile food thing, you have to park it at what is called a commissary. You also have to store any food at said commissary. And wash your cart/truck out every day at the facility. If you have a mobile food cart (as opposed to a truck) you have to prepare all of your food at this commissary. Now, these commissaries are few and far between. Sac is sorely lacking in them because WE ARENT ALLOWED TO HAVE THEM! There is one commissary that I am aware of and guess what? No carts allowed. Only trucks.

    Then there are the health dept issues regarding sinks, handwashing and ‘warewashing’ which are separate units. It seems that one cannot wash their hands and dishes in the same sink and, who knew this, it takes 3 sinks to wash dishes! That is four sinks!

    I won’t bore you wtih further tales of adventures with the City govt. as I eagerly jump thru the hoops they have placed in front of me. Just know it is a nightmare.

    1. I can understand the concern people would have about the food trucks and why there should be certain restrictions, but to have such ordinances so that it virtually stymies them is overkill. There must be a way for both sides of this issue to be addressed so that food trucks can operate so that they are beneficial to the community, rather than a detriment. Especially if other cities can pull it off. Thank you, Ruetta, for this inside look.

  21. Erin says:

    We have a lot of food trucks in SF and I love them in NYC – in fact, you turned me on to that one on 53rd at 6th Ave (delicious!). Here’s the latest addition to the NYC fleet, sure to be my favorite: http://ny.eater.com/archives/2011/04/a_first_look_at_the_fries_sauces_from_the_frying_dutchmen_truck.php

    1. Mmmmm…french fries. :)

  22. Mike S says:

    Any fool knows that food carts & trucks are a valued part of a thriving urban economy. I guess that excludes the idiots in Sacto gov’t.

    1. With any luck, the message sent this weekend will hit them over the head with the hammer of obviousness.

  23. I hope we do get more food trucks. My wish list would include one that dispenses good coffee anywhere near 14th & L. They would have my business every morning!!!

    1. Oh yes! Let’s turn the volume up on your comment so the people in the rafters can hear you loud and clear.

      You hear that 14th & L?

  24. um… the last little bit before my name (Bry) at the end of my last comment was just supposed to read “we now return you to your regularly scheduled blog comments”. I think I just scared myself some more…

    1. I’d love to see what you actually typed to cause that mess there at the end. :)

      I sympathize since I’ve pulled similar doozies.

  25. Ginger says:

    Finally Sacramento! I remember you griping about this last year after going to New York (i think) and ..
    The local diners should buckle up and prepare for competition…its the way of the world.

    1. Yep, that was me, griping away last year.

  26. Bravo! I just have a minute, so here is some hopefully entertaining stream of consciousness blip-vert-like thoughts…

    Ahhhh, maaaan! I was SO going to say “roach coach” until I saw that you mentioned it at the end! Seriously though, your coaches on the west coast are awesome compared to ours in the mid-west. They should NOT be banned!

    Ummmm…let’s see now… Oh, yeah… Second picture up from the last pic: The cartoon depiction on the side of the truck of a woman ready to fricken INHALE that sammich…disturbs me…

    Next… The sub-primate-but-not-quite-reptilian-hind-brain within my skull will NOT allow me to tear my eyes away from the…um…”backside” of the certainly keeper of a wonderful personality woman in the next to the last pic… Bad, Bryan… Bad!

    Final quick hot off the griddle and not quite thoroughly cooked through thought: for some reason, these pictures reminded me of the final climactic chapters of Stephen King’s book “Cell”, which I just recently read again. I think it has something to do with the people all milling about waiting to get FOOD. That and “SactoMoFo” sounds eerily similar to “Kashwak=No-Fo” which appears quite a bit in that book. Brrrrrr! I just got a chill…

    Please do not tell my doctor about this post…

    Laterz! ;)

    -Bry

    1. Hey now, part of it is my bad photography, but that girl is bootylicious, just like me. And J-Lo, who, if I’m not mistaken, appeared in the movie version of “Cell”.

      NOW who’s hearing Twilight Zone music?

  27. Pricilla says:

    One has to marvel at the stupidity of the Sacramento council. How many members own or have an interest in or have family members with restaurants?
    huh?
    Huh?

  28. We have them all over the bay area. In fact, some of them are way better than a lot of restaurants! Sacto should reconsider and that’s for damn sure.

    1. This fight ain’t over til it’s over, Linda!