Despite concerns about the potential loss of business for restaurants in the southernmost block of downtown Delaware, City Council decided last week that the Delaware Arts Festival is at liberty to move forward with its request to stage food trucks on South Sandusky Street during its annual event.

Earlier this month, Linda Shearer, president of the Delaware Arts Festival Board of Trustees, presented council with plans for closing down South Sandusky Street from William Street to Spring Street in addition to the annual closing of the middle and north blocks of Sandusky Street.

She said plans for the 45th annual event, set for May 19-20, call for the south block to serve as the location for food trucks, tables and chairs, corporate sponsor booths, and festival entertainment.

According to a letter sent to council by Sherry Riviera, a member of the Delaware Arts Festival board, the food trucks will be parked south of the fire hydrant on the east side of South Sandusky Street (same side as City Hall) and will head south toward Spring Street. The front of the trucks, the letter states, will face southwest.

Riviera also states the food trucks will serve “fair-type food,” and the festival is doing all it can to help incorporate local restaurants by creating the “Brown Bag Food Voucher” program for the 2018 event.

Under the voucher program, included in each exhibitor packet will be a brown bag containing two $5 vouchers to participating restaurants along with menus from the establishments.

At the end of the festival, the board will reimburse the restaurants for all vouchers used during the event.

Following council’s Dec. 11 meeting, several members stated they wanted to reach out to restaurant owners in the south block to get their take on having food trucks positioned just outside their doors.

Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said of the four restaurants that council members were able to visit, three were against closing the block for the festival.

“In my opinion, I can understand why restaurants wouldn’t be in favor of having food trucks for a special event like this,” council member Lisa Keller said. “From the special events perspective, it makes sense. So we have these conflicting viewpoints here.

“I don’t think that the restaurants should be able to veto a festival and veto food trucks for one weekend. If we were talking every First Friday, I think that would have to weigh a little bit more heavily. For this use, I think the arts festival has demonstrated that they really made an effort to try to include our local businesses,” she added.

Council member George Hellinger went all in on the proposed street closure.

“A brick and mortar that is endangered by a food truck probably needs to re-evaluate their business plan,” he said. “I don’t see (food trucks) as a threat.”

City Manager R. Thomas Homan said the request to close down the block will be included in the application that will be submitted to the Special Events Committee, but back in 2015, a condition was added that council must be made aware of any request to close down three or more blocks for a special event. He added the consensus is council is okay with allowing all three downtown blocks of South Sandusky Street to be closed for the festival in May 2018.

“Ideally, I’d love to find a place to put the food trucks that wasn’t in front of some of these restaurants, I just don’t know where that is,” Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said.

By Joshua Keeran

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Contact Joshua Keeran at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @KeeranGazette.