By Kevin Collison
The Crossroads Community Association is apologizing for the heartburn it has caused food truck operators by surprising them with a $200 permit fee to operate within the 18th Street corridor at this week’s First Friday.
Food truck operators originally were told the new fee would be $125, but the association changed its mind following last month’s First Friday.
Costs for cleanup and other services exceeded projections and the non-profit organization decided increasing it to $200 was appropriate.
Trouble is, many of the operators didn’t know about the 60 percent hike until they began signing up for this week’s event.
“We dropped the ball talking to the food trucks,” said Jeff Owens, CCA president.
“If they would have been part of the conversation, it would have been better. Two-hundred dollars was a big deal which I totally get.”
To relieve the operators’ indigestion, the association sent them an apology letter. But the $200 fee still stands.
“On behalf of the CCA, I would like to personally apologize for not communicating properly about our expenses in our effort to create The 18th Street Food Truck Corridor,” Owens wrote in his letter.
“We spoke with most of you regarding our plans to charge $125 for participation in each First Friday. Yet after our test trial during July First Friday, we determined we would need to add several services in order to ensure a safe, clean and enjoyable event environment for all.”
The new 18th Street Food Truck Corridor stretches from Oak to Wyandotte. About 35 food trucks operated in that corridor during the July test run. The CCA obtained a festival permit from the city to establish the corridor and impose the fee.
Art galleries and other businesses outside that zone are free to independently host a food truck.
Owens said the increasing popularity of First Fridays and the burden it places on his non-profit community organization forced the imposition of the fees.
A separate letter from James Sims, First Fridays operating officer, laid out the current challenges:
“When food truck fame came to the forefront several years ago, the CCA was able to handle the added cost of trash pickup, security and public amenities that cam along with the activity.
“However the the closing of the Kansas City Star food truck lot last year, the increased presence of this popular dining option and the greater number of visitors on the streets resulted in expenditures we had not anticipated or had funds to adequately cover.
“We are now faced with the growing costs of additional port-a-potties, public security, trash clean-up during and after the event, permit fees, equipment rental, event staffing, transportation and communications.”
Owens also said the association is trying to get a handle on the growing number of sidewalk vendors showing up on First Fridays. His organization welcomes those who are selling original art, but frowns on vendors reselling regular merchandise.
“They’re cool as long as they’re doing art-related things,” he said. “We’re trying to keep more true to the Crossroads Arts District and not reselling items.”
The new $200 food truck fee will be applied during the peak months of June, July, August and September. it will be $125 in October and May; $100 in November and April; $50 in December and March, and no cost in January and February.
Don’t miss any downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.