Food truck operators frustrated over new fee to participate in First Fridays in Crossroads

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some food truck vendors are frustrated over a new fee that they’re being charged in the Crossroads District on First Fridays.

Earlier this month, vendors were told by the Crossroads Community Association that it was implementing a “festival permit” for the entire district and, starting Aug. 3, food truck vendors would be confined to a new designated area and must pay $125 to participate.

On Friday, another notice went out informing vendors that the entry fee was $200. Jeff Owens, president of the CCA, later clarified that food trucks will have to pay $200 during peak months, $125 in normal months and nothing during winter months.

“To me it sounds like somebody’s trying to gouge the food trucks to put money in their pocket,” said Adrian Gardner, owner of Show Me Street Food and Hella Bar-B-Que.

Gardner said he’s been setting up his food trucks during First Fridays for 14 years and has never paid to participate in the monthly event.

“I was part of the building of this,” Gardner said. “It was slow starting out, but there’s never been a fee, always just an open-door welcome.

Prebus Burton, owner of PAB’s Mobile Treats, said he was shocked when he received an email on Friday notifying him of the changes.

“If you’re a food truck owner and depend on First Fridays for income, it’s shocking,” Burton said. “Every food truck owner we’ve talked to has been like, ‘Wow where did this come from?’”

Burton said the increased fee caught him off guard because food truck vendors already pay fees and taxes to the city.

“If we’re already paying the city, then why do we have to pay the Crossroads?” Burton asked. “You expect to pay to get into most festivals that you do, but something like First Fridays has always been free.”

Burton and Gardner said they’ve tried contacting the CCA to no avail. They both want to know what the $200 fee will cover.

“The last email I asked them why the increase,” Burton recalled. “I didn’t get a response. Then I asked where the money was going toward, and I still haven’t got an answer.”

Gardner suspects one reason for the fee is because of how popular food trucks have become.

“Now that it’s really the it thing and you’ve got brick and mortar buildings coming out with food trucks, they see that as income producing, so let’s tap into this resource and get some of it.” Gardner said.

He said covering the fee will likely fall on the customer.

“It’s not just, ‘Oh, it’s $200,’” Garner said. “That fee has to come from somewhere and ultimately, it’s going to come from the paying customer.”

Both food truck owners said they don’t mind paying a small fee ($50-$75) to park in the Crossroads for First Fridays, but they believe vendors should have been part of the decision-making process.

“We need to come up with a better solution because $200 per truck is not answer,” Gardner said. “I mean, we’re bringing customers to this area too.”

Owens told FOX4 the organization has been working for a couple years to formalize rules for First Fridays.

It's no secret the weekend-long event has exploded in popularity, but with more people comes more trash and more security needed, Owens said.

Previously, it was just volunteers running First Fridays. Now, the CCA has been hiring security and clean-up crews.

In a message to vendors, the CCA said the designated area for food trucks will be between Grand and Baltimore, and the association will “coordinate trash pickup and oversee several other issues within this location to ensure a satisfactory experience.” The CCA added that “the fee will reduce during slower months.”

Owens said a secondary problem has been people who set up a table on sidewalks and resell products originally purchased elsewhere. The CCA wants to weed that out. Owens said if a vendor makes their own product, they have nothing to worry about.

It's unclear at this time when a fee will be implemented for sidewalk vendors and how much it will be.