Art Walk food truck roundup cancelled amid controversy

By | March 8th, 2012 | 13 Comments

The Wynwood Market, the usual gathering space for food trucks during Second Saturdays Art Walk, will be closed this Saturday. -- photo by Robby Campbell

The food truck roundup that accompanies Art Walk in Wynwood on the second Saturday of every month has been cancelled amid a storm of accusations between the food trucks operators and Brad Knoefler, the neighborhood activist who spearheaded the creation of Grand Central Park in downtown.

Art Walk itself will go on as usual (see our exhibition guide).

The City of Miami’s code enforcement department informed the food trucks on Thursday that they could not gather in the lot at 2238 N.W. Second Avenue during Art Walk this Saturday because they did not have the proper permits. The city’s action came just hours after Knoefler emailed officials inquiring about the event’s permit status.

While previous food truck gatherings during Art Walk had the required “special use” permit, the lot recently changed hands, and the trucks were still in the middle of the permit process with the new owner, according to Richard Hales, a leader in the food truck community and the operator of the Dim Ssam a gogo truck and the Sakaya Kitchen restaurants in downtown and Midtown.

“We can’t complain to the city,” Hales said. “They’re doing their job and we have to follow the rules like everybody else. It’s very unfortunate that a person who calls [himself] an activist for the people … and is trying to promote development for the city, incites the zoning department to take action. It’s not what we need to move forward.”

Knoefler said it was not his intent to get the event shut down, but that he was acting to protect the “general community” and that he was “tired of illegal events,” which he sees as dangerous for the participants and potentially harmful to the reputation of the area.

“My intent has been very clear for years,” Knoefler said. “We want to make sure this stuff gets legitimized.”

Knoefler elaborated on his position in a statement on the Grand Central Park Facebook page, but it was eventually deleted. In 2009, Knoefler founded the Omni Parkwest Redevelopment Association (OPRA), the non-profit that runs Grand Central Park, to try to counteract the deterioration of “Miami’s most blighted neighborhoods.” A member of the OPRA board who wished to remain anonymous said Knoefler’s actions and statements were his alone and did not represent the opinion of OPRA or Grand Central Park.

“His post was deleted,” the board member said. “It did not represent the unanimous opinion of the board. There will be an upcoming statement.”

Knoefler later sent out his statement via email. Here’s an excerpt:

As responsible citizens we must ensure that life safety issues are addressed properly and legally. Our intention is never to shut down an event but to secure their long-term success. We are big proponents of any activities that happen in Miami bringing people, culture and economic development.

Normalizing the temporary use process is important to ensure a level playing field for all. We remain committed to assist any venue, small business or property owner with the temporary use permit process.

You can read the full statement on the Open Media Miami Facebook page.

Update: OPRA executive director Mark Lesniak emailed the following statement to the food truck community at 12:21 p.m. on Friday, March 9, after some food trucks threatened to boycott a “Food Truck Happy Hour” at Grand Central Park.

Dear Miami Food Truck Community:

OPRA understands that recent posts have left the impression that we are responsible for the cancellation of the Second Saturday food truck round up. We are not.

According to Mr. Hale, the organizer of the event, he decided to cancel the event rather than potentially receive a warning or fine from the City of Miami for having an unpermitted special event. That means a NOV is issued with time to correct the violation (e.g., complete the permit process with the City).

Rumors of competitive animus or underhanded business practices are untrue. OPRA loves food trucks and fought for the vacant land permit that was created specifically for them. The email about the permit had nothing to do with our event today or with food trucks in particular. OPRA routinely calls the City of Miami whenever a special event is taking place but no notice was received from the City (OPRA is on the list of organizations that receives such notifications).

OPRA continues to welcome food trucks at the Park and, as part of its community service obligations, does NOT charge a fee to any vendors, including food trucks, for operating at the Park.

I sincerely hope we will all over come this in the near future. Feel free to join us today from 5-9pm.



Update #2: David Lombardi, a board member of the Wynwood Arts District Assocation (WADA), emailed the following statement about the cancellation to Barnaby Min, the City of
Miami zoning administrator.

As a board member of the Wynwood Arts District association, this “knee-jerk” reaction by the City to shut down this Second Saturday’s food truck round-up at the last minute is a big problem for us business owners in the neighborhood. The round-up is the only way to bring order to chaos on these events by herding all of the responsible food truck vendors into one site so they do not block all the street parking spots in front of all the galleries.

It also reduces garbage and debris from being scattered along NW 2nd Avenue. If the City is going to make a move like this, then please have them send out some code enforcement inspectors that night to police the area for all the unlicensed vendors and illegal parking in loading zones etc… The idea for this “round-up” came partly out of the City’s lack of presence on these nights and therefore, we felt we had to take matters into our own hands and control the chaos. In addition, we pay for 3-4 off duty police officers at each one of these to control traffic flow and want to be a responsible neighborhood association. In closing, I fear this action will be counterproductive and I am pleading with you to help “fast-track” a permit for these guys to make this event a “go” for tomorrow night!!

Lombardi later told Open Media Miami, “It’s strange that Brad [Knoefler] would raise this issue being that he doesn’t own any property in Wynwood. His timing is curious”

According to Jim Heins, the owner of Latin Burger, one of the first food trucks to operate in South Florida, the cancellation of the Wynwood event could be a major loss for many food truck owners, as it tends to be their biggest night of the month.

“It’s a real shame that the one night of the month that we actually go out and make a profit, some guy has to make a stupid phone call and take it away from us,” he said. “Well, where does this come from? Why would you do this? It [the event] supports these small mom and pop operators, and gives the chance to find the money to survive.”

Heins had been planning to attend “Food Truck Happy Hour” at Grand Central Park on Friday but withdrew Latin Burger from the event when he found about Knoefler’s role in the cancellation of the food truck roundup during Art Walk.

“I believe in their project, but after what this guy did, I can’t support it,” Heins said.

Hales said that while the zoning department told him it was too late to pull a permit for Saturday, he’s confident they will be able to obtain one in time for Art Walk in April.

For his part, Knoefler said he would do “everything possible” on Friday to work with the city so that the Saturday event could go forward as orginally planned.

“It’ll happen,” he said.

We will update this story as we learn more information. In the meantime, here is how the news of the cancellation played out on Twitter.

This post was produced in partnership with Open Media Miami.

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13 Comments on “Art Walk food truck roundup cancelled amid controversy”

  1. 1 Mr. Gumsandals said at 7:00 am on March 9th, 2012:

    It appears Knoefler’s recent success with his “Park Central” has gone to his head and allowed him to relax and show his true nature which is that he’s an anal Nazi at heart. He needs to disappear from the community and find another town he can live happily ever after in that shares his need to control and “protect.”

  2. 2 nickoooch said at 7:11 am on March 9th, 2012:

    Ok, it’s shut down this weekend. What are the truck operators doing to reinstate their permits or apply for permanent status? Need some details.

    If it’s a few wknds, i MAY be able to deal… Keep in mind it’s an event that takes place once a month.

    I will, however, miss it this wknd.

  3. 3 Jordan Melnick said at 9:34 am on March 9th, 2012:

    A Nazi? When did that stop meaning “someone who directly participated in the extermination of millions of human beings” and start meaning “someone who gets food truck gatherings shut down”?

  4. 4 Andrew said at 11:13 am on March 9th, 2012:

    Hey jordan, it’s just goodwin’s law in practice.

  5. 5 nate dee said at 12:04 pm on March 9th, 2012:

    first time i heard of Godwin’s law, but its pretty awesome!

    ps: An enthusiastic thumbs down for Knoefler!

  6. 6 Sam Eagle said at 12:17 pm on March 9th, 2012:

    Hmph, Mr. Melnick, to answer your question, I guess when Jerry Seinfeld started calling that poor anal immigrant the “Soup Nazi.” That’s about 5-years after “Godwin’s Law” was codified. How ’bout “anal Fascist”? Would that work for you?

  7. 7 what park said at 1:28 pm on March 9th, 2012:

    have you been to grand central park? it is a waste of time and money! it is not a park. it is a pay parking lot with lots of broken glass (like most of miami). whatever grass was there was killed by that reggae festival. anyone notice how fast the grass grew back at the occupy site? that is the way to do a park. how about the temporary park at biscayne and flagler last week? that is the way to do a park.

  8. 8 x said at 2:26 pm on March 9th, 2012:

    The grass didn’t grow back at the Occupy park – the city laid fresh sod down.

  9. 9 Alex said at 6:58 pm on March 9th, 2012:

    way to go, brad, u POS!

  10. 10 Bronxxx said at 7:08 pm on March 9th, 2012:

    Brad Knoefler = douchebag

  11. 11 JJ said at 12:08 am on March 10th, 2012:

    Knoefler and legitimized are two words that probably don’t belong in the same sentence . . .

  12. 12 miami arts said at 12:50 pm on March 10th, 2012:

    truthfully i wish the food trucks would NOT be at the artwalks, (or at least in the center of it) all it does is provide cluster and clutter to an already clustered event. its ARTwalk not food truck night, it brings people out who dont even care about the art, they’re just there for the food and BOOZE it creates some weird mishmash type event you’d see at something like lollapalooza.. and frankly we LOUD ASS dj playing horrible music, really? do you want that type of environment?

    i for one would like to ONCE be able to appreciate the artwalk how it was BEFORE the trucks and the booze showed up to the event.

    wait you’ve never attended before this?

    thats my point.

  13. 13 la said at 7:02 pm on March 13th, 2012:

    @ Miami Arts. You have it wrong. People have to start somewhere, especially young people. I started in New York when SOHO was the artsy place to be, just going from gallery to gallery, drinking cheap wine. I did not have a penny by then. Now I buy art, and not necessary cheap art. I also started going to Wynwood fifteen years ago, when only a handful of galleries were there. I still go now, and I love it. Maybe not everybody goes there for the art, but at least they are exposed to it, and that is an investment for the future. The “Truck Round Up”, albeit not my favorite thing there, centralizes the “Art Walk” and provides an inexpensive place to eat and socialize, that was lacking in the neighborhood. During the course of the years, many times, I had to cut short my gallery walk, because there was no place to eat in the area, and the few available (only recently) were full. Now you can grab a quick bite and keep going. It also creates a “Fair” ambiance, that combined with the art in the galleries stimulates the young kid’s minds. My ten years old daughter, loves it. Before she only went there because of me, now she looks forward to the “Art Walk”. We were very disappointed, about the cancellation last Saturday.

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