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Coming Soon: Food Truck Fridays (and Saturdays and Sundays Too) in Tacoma

Food truck fans, put this on your calendar: Three days a week for at least three months this summer it looks like you'll have a fun new option for lunch (and breakfast and dinner two days a week). A new program from the City of Tacoma will give local food trucks a place to set up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

It's a pilot program from the City's Community and Economic Development Department in response to community interest in doing more to foster a food truck scene in Tacoma.

Until now food trucks haven't exactly thrived in Tacoma and Pierce County, due in part to regulations that differ from those in King County, and are fairly strict compared to other cities with thriving food truck scenes. For their part, food truck operators say they've had trouble finding locations that work from both a permitting standpoint and a public exposure standpoint. To address those and other challenges, the City of Tacoma worked closely with the Pierce County Health Department and local food truck operators.

The result is an ongoing, roving "food truck corral" that will give customers and food truck operators a predictable schedule for when and where to find each other. 

An initial plan had the food trucks gathering every Friday for an event called Food Truck Fridays: breakfast and lunch outside Urban Grace church downtown. The food truck operators asked to increase their exposure by adding a Ruston Way location on Saturdays and Sundays. The program was presented to the city council Economic Development Committee last week, and some discussion ensued about the choice of location for Fridays.

The 9th and Market location was chosen because Urban Grace is willing to open its doors to provide restroom facilities for employees, per Pierce County code, and because Economic Development wants to use the event as a catalyst to activate an otherwise very quiet downtown block. There were also concerns of competing with regular brick and mortar restaurants elsewhere.

This choice runs a bit counter to most theories of ... - as council members Mello, Campbell, and Boe pointed out, it might be difficult to attract foot traffic to an already dead block with little in the way of seating for diners, or much else to engage visitors. Councilmember Campbell observed, ""It's sometimes easier to get something successful in a successful area..." Councilmember Mello suggested Tollefson Plaza as a more attractive place to hang out and eat, possibly drawing more customers.

It's just the logistics of normal consumer behavior that I'm concerned about, and I want the pilot to be as successfull as possible... I applaud the department's efforts to activate dead zones... but I worry about this pilot, and just want to set it up for the best success possible.

No specific decision was arrived at during the presentation, but the most recent Special Events Bulletin from the City shows a compromise solution that has the trucks moving to four separate locations throughout the course of a month.

  • 1st and 3rd Fridays - 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Breakfast and lunch. Downtown, just south of Urban Grace on Market and 9th.
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays - 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch. Downtown, at Tollefson Plaza on Pacific and 17th.
  • Saturdays - 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Lunch and dinner. Ruston Way, Cummings Park, southeast of the Lobster Shop.
  • Sundays - 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Lunch and dinner. Ruston Way, outside the Silver Cloud Inn.

All food trucks licensed in Pierce County would be eligible to participate, and at least four would commit to showing up to the "food truck corral" on the days it operates downtown, and three each day it's open on Ruston Way.

There hasn't been an official announcement from the City, but according to the presentation at the Economic Development Committee, the pilot program is scheduled to begin May 1, and continue through the end of July, at which time the City and food truck operators will assess how the program went - location, hours, attendance, etc - and consider whether to continue the event, revamp it, or make it a one-time thing. You may not see much signage either - Economic Development was hesitant for any of the parties involved to invest too much in an event that might not continue...

The Business Examiner reports that a ribbon cutting is scheduled for Friday, May 1 at 10 a.m at the Market and 9th location... followed by lunch, we assume. Will we see you in line at the food trucks?

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