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Sewickley council allows food trucks to be part of mart

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

There will be food trucks at Friday's final summer Night Mart after all.

But Sewickley Council President Susan Aleshire said if Night Mart organizers plan the event next year, “we don't want just any kind of food truck.”

Council members last week rescinded a July vote to ban the popular restaurant-on-wheels concept for Night Mart events planned for July and August. Aleshire was the only council member who voted last week not to rescind the previous vote. The measure passed 8-1.

Organizer Rhonda McFarland said July's event was disappointing because brick-and-mortar restaurants were jammed and patrons had nowhere else to go for food.

“A lot of families were very disappointed on the last Night Mart,” said McFarland, who owns Threadz Boutique and works with Sewickley Shops — a group of business owners who planned this summer's Night Marts. “A lot of them walk in with their children and they're not going to sit down at a restaurant, they're not going to drink. They want a place where they can come with their children and just get a bite to eat and then walk back home. There were a lot of very disappointed residents.”

McFarland said she met with several restaurant owners — many of whom signed a petition saying they were agreeable to allowing food trucks during the event. She presented the petition to council.

Three food trucks are scheduled to be part of Friday's final event: Oh My Grill, Fourth Street Barbeque and Food Fight.

Council banned food trucks after June's Night Mart because organizers had not presented insurance information from food vendors, Aleshire said.

“We had decided as council and sent a letter out saying that because you did not have insurances and they were here, that was not good,” she said. “We don't want to be held liable for that. So that's why council said for this year, we're not going to do that anymore.

Aleshire said she thought organizers undermined council's previous vote “to go ahead and get the people, and that's great that you have them and you have their insurances, but we already said not to do that.”

Vice President Bill Cornman said he changed his mind on allowing a limited number of food trucks after hearing that last month's event underserved those in attendance.

“I don't see them as ... competing with our existing restaurants,” he said.

Night Mart organizer Alexis Communale said the group wants to encourage people from around the area to visit Sewickley and thought to capitalize on the popularity of food trucks at events around Pittsburgh.

A number of food trucks — some owned as extensions of brick-and-mortar restaurants and others that are freestanding enterprises — have been part of major Pittsburgh events, such as the Three Rivers Arts Festival and playoff hockey viewing parties outside Consol Energy Center.

“We are trying to get people to think of Sewickley as a happening place,” said Communale, who owns the Jewel Thief. “I know there's a lot of people that go, ‘Sewickley? Old, stodgy.' This is part of that whole ideology of getting them to think that this is a place that's fun and that they want to come to.”

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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