ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The city of Albany plans to expand a food truck pilot program that allowed food truck vendors to park and cater to customers in commercial districts around the city.
The pilot program began last fall, and the food trucks were found around the Capitol. But now the challenge for city leaders is to grow new business without destroying what’s currently there.
“This is local money, spent locally; stays local,” Capital Q Smokehouse owner Sean Custer said.
Custer took part in the pilot program last fall. He said it wasn’t the biggest hit.
“I think nobody knew of what was going on,” he said.
But this year, more attention may make the idea boom.
“I think all the empty stores will be filled because of all the interest in Albany,” Sweet Mama Mia owner Danielle Minuto said.
Last year’s program ran three months with just five food trucks. This year, the city is looking for suggestions to make it better.
Food truck owners like Tim Taney of Slidin’ Dirty want more permits and more locations. But more could mean risky competition for permanent restaurants. But the city said that won’t be overlooked.
“We’re balancing the needs of the vendors and the consumers with the residents and with the established business owners,” city of Albany Sustainability Planner Kate Lawrence said.
Custer, who also owns a permanent restaurant, said he welcomes the challenge.
“I think competition is a great thing,” he said.
The program allows food trucks to park anywhere that’s zoned as commercial; not residential. If the truck is within 150 ft. of a restaurant, it will need a letter of support from that business before it can operate.
“To have a food truck there is going to be good for everybody,” Taney said.
That’s what 9 Pin Cider Words owner Alejandro del Peral discovered last fall.
“We offer our ciders on tap, but we don’t offer food,” he said.
So having food just outside his door was a winning idea.
“It was easy for us to collaborate and satisfy both,” he said.
Other food truck owners agree.
“We’ll help each other out,” Minuto said.
“One thing food trucks do better than anything else is promote foot traffic,” Taney said.
And that, food truck owners said, could create a friendlier, more walkable city.
“It becomes a destination and then the neighboring businesses are the ones that win,” Taney said.
“It will add to the vitality to areas that may need a little more oomph,” Lawrence said.
The city plans to continue to take ideas until April 15 when it will outline the new or enhanced rules for 2015. This plan has nothing to do with the food trucks that are stationed around Capitol Park or Empire State Plaza.
The trucks for the pilot program could be seen at parks, industrial areas and maybe outside shows and events. The season this year runs from May through October.
The vendor application deadline has also been extended for the Alive at Five Concert Series and Dad Fest. Applications will now be accepted until April 15th. You can apply at http://www.albanyevents.org/.