Food Truck Parks Face Obstacles in Bringing Booze to the Masses
"When I first called TABC to ask about a permit for the park, the people had no idea what a food truck park was," Hale explains.
Photo courtesy My Food Park HTX Hale and other local food park owners are still waiting for TABC to make getting alcohol permits easier.
Indeed, if you search for food trucks or food truck parks on the TABC website, there are no results. Elsewhere in the country, trucks have been serving alcohol for years, and they're not even required to be stopped at a commissary or park. In New York, the first booze-slinging trucks hit the road in 2011, but the permits do require that customers stay in one place if they order an alcoholic beverage. Wandering off with an open beer in hand is not allowed.
Somehow, in Houston, a mobile unit called the Pedal Party was granted an alcohol license. Perhaps it's because the Pedal Party doesn't sell alcohol -- you bring your own, and then drink it while pedaling what's essentially a giant bar up and down Washington Avenue (perhaps you've seen it?). Also, there's a designated driver who works for Pedal Party and doesn't partake during the outing. That's as close as Houston has come to a mobile alcohol vendor.
But back to the park. Many understand the reasoning behind prohibiting food trucks from selling alcohol, as people generally pick up food and get right back in their vehicles. Parks are different, though. People can spend hours enjoying an afternoon of good food and good friends at a food truck park. So long as they aren't driving with a beer in their hands, Hale asks, how is it different from a bar selling alcohol?
And, she wonders, how is her food truck park different from food truck festivals, where dozens of parks convene and sponsors sell beer for upwards of $10 a bottle?
"I understand the port-a-potties-versus-a-real-restroom issue," Hale says. But at festivals, there are rows and rows of port-a-potties and $10 beer. How is that fair?"
For now, Hale encourages people to bring their own alcohol to the park if they want to enjoy a beer with their burgers. She and her husband haven't yet started charging trucks to come serve at the park (as many food parks do), so all of the park's income is from non-alcoholic beverages. The Hales must sell a lot of Cokes and waters to pay the $6,000 a month rent on the property, and they know it would be much easier if they could just sell beer to the many customers who want to sit and enjoy a taco and a cold drink.