Borough Council OKs Weekly Food Truck Outside Bill Pickle’s Taproom
State College Borough Council on Monday voted 5-2 to permit a food truck to park in a loading zone one night a week for a limited time to serve patrons of Bill Pickles Taproom, 106 S. Allen Street.
The exception to the mobile retail food ordinance, which otherwise prohibits food trucks from operating from a stationary location on a public street, will allow a food truck to be located in the loading zone on the west side of South Allen Street and immediately north of Calder Way from 5:30 to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays through Oct. 31
Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said Hotel State College owners made the request because of “substantial staffing challenges” at another of their properties, The Corner Room, located next door to Pickle’s. The Corner Room’s kitchen typically provides the food served at Pickle’s.
Because of the staffing shortages, The Corner Room will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays so that current staff can have days off. The food truck, which must be a borough licensed vendor, will allow Pickles to serve food to its customers on one of those nights.
The Downtown State College Improvement District supported the request as long as it was for one night only and on a temporary basis, Fountaine said.
The borough can revoke the exception at any time without notice.
Several council members raised concerns about issues including crowding on the sidewalk and alcohol being taken out of the bar.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board would not allow alcohol to be taken off premises to buy food and that it would be subject to the open container ordinance, borough solicitor Terry Williams said.
Fountaine added that the PLCB will have to approve the food truck set up.
Councilwoman Theresa Lafer, who voted against the exception, said she has seen “almost uniformly negative” reaction for the past week to the seasonal “pedlet” installed outside Pickle’s to accommodate its outdoor seating. Borough council previously approved the temporary walkway, which extends into the parking spaces on the road, to allow Pickle’s outdoor seating to come out onto the sidewalk while maintaining pedestrian access.
She said she believes lines for the food truck will cause further pedestrian congestion and possibly cause people to walk into the street.
“It is not going to be smooth. It is unlikely to be safe,” Lafer said. “It’s a mess.”
She added that she doesn’t think the food truck should be needed through the end of October, since Penn State students who can fill open jobs are returning this week.
“Quite honestly, if they can’t find a dozen servers for those evenings from 40,000 students, many of whom do actually look for jobs and do work, then they’re not trying hard enough,” Lafer said. “I like the Corner Room and I love the [Allen Street] Grill, but this is silly. This is simply a roadblock, another place taken out of the street and it is likely to be dangerous.”
Councilman Peter Marshall joined Lafer in voting no.
Speaking in favor of granting the exception, council members Katherine Yeaple and Evan Myers said the borough needs to do what it can to support local businesses during the challenges of COVID-19.
Yeaple said she understood Lafer’s position, but that “we don’t know that” staffing shortages will be resolved with the return of students.
“I do know that lots of organizations are having difficulty staffing their kitchens and I’m in favor of food trucks, so I will support this measure,” Yeaple said.
“This is the time of COVID, still,” Myers added. “So we need to be flexible, we need to be understanding, we need to be accommodating.”
While the food truck will be there at the request of Pickle’s, it will be available to anyone, Fountaine said.
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