While farmers markets and food trucks are allowed to open, some owners fear limited customers
With the summer fast approaching, farmers markets and food truck operators are getting ready for what they foresee as one of the most challenging seasons in recent memory due to coronavirus.
In Anchorage, municipality officials decided during an Anchorage Assembly meeting that farmers markets and food trucks are allowed to operate.
The next day, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz explained the decision, and how staying healthy falls on the vendors and the people who choose to visit their establishments.
"We can't guarantee anything," Berkowitz said, commenting on how the city will keep people safe at the markets. "I think the premise is that we have learned how to stay physically distanced from other businesses. We are out in the public, and the expectation is that people will remain physically distanced."
Owner and operator of Anchorage Markets, Michael Fox, said vendors will be given
once the Downtown Market opens up. However, he said, the effects of COVID-19 can already be felt in preparations.
"We're about to start losing vendors left and right over this pandemic," he said, "which means that anybody that does attend the market, they may visit the market and look for a specific vendor and that vendor may not be there this year. So that's one of the things that we're seeing."
Fox's operation of vendor participation claims is down about 70 percent as of right now, he said. On top of limited selection, Fox also said fewer vendors means less money to pay rent for the lot. He said the group is working on a compromise with the city.
Market visitors should expect to see signage reminding people to be physically distant, explaining a lack of sampling and taste testing, and being told not to touch any products.
Other players in farmers markets and summer events in general are the food truck operations. According to Alaska Food Truck Association President Kristina Rickard, setting up shop at all this year could be a gamble. Food truck operators usually have to pay to sell food at venues and events. Using the Downtown Market as an example, she explained that it's a hard decision to open up with fewer people out and about while paying about $4,500 to be there.
"A majority of the business for that venue is tourists," she said, "so there's not going to be those tourists coming. Granted, there's going to be some Alaskans that come out, and that's just part of supporting local businesses. But you know that's going to impact their sales and whether or not they're going to be able to stay afloat."
Rickard said predicted lack of tourism this summer will have a huge impact on food trucks planning to make large amounts of their yearly revenue at events. Fox said the same goes for farmers markets.
Some venues are offering food truck owners their money back, but not all of them. The daily operation of Rickard's food truck company, Boom Ba Laddy's, has already been severely impacted. She said the late-night crowd they try to serve is non-existent with the "hunker down" order. Instead, the truck has been set up near places where essential workers are, and along with adjusting hours, customers order by phone from their cars when more than five people line up.