Off the Grid pulls plug on Southside Berkeley market

Off The Grid Southside Berkeley. Photo: Nancy Rubin

Off The Grid Southside Berkeley will hold its final food truck market tonight. Photo: Nancy Rubin

Tonight is the last night for Off The Grid’s Southside Berkeley food truck market which has been taking place once a week — with a few breaks, a day change, and one slight shift in venue — since it launched in July 2012.

The market, which is on the east side of Haste Street at Telegraph, has seen a steady decline in the number of customers, many of whom have been UC Berkeley students, according to Roland Peterson, director of the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District.

“The first few weeks were really popular,” Peterson said, “but it has slowed down a lot since then.”

This was confirmed by Off The Grid founder Matt Cohen who said: “Over time, it has become clear that this market is not financially viable for our vendors and therefore not providing the Off the Grid experience our fans have come to expect.”

Peterson attributes the market’s fall in customers to various factors. He said moving the trucks from the west to the east side of Haste Street gave people less open space for sitting and eating the food trucks’ wares, as well as less visibility from passing traffic.

“Previously, those driving by could see people enjoying dinner and they might stop,” he said.

Off The Grid Berkeley Southside: its last night is tonight, Monday March 17, 2014. Photo: OTG

The site move was prompted by complaints from local merchants who said the market’s impact on traffic was taking away business from Telegraph area businesses, Peterson said. He added that some local restaurants also felt they were losing customers to the mobile food vendors. When it launched, the market was held on Thursday nights, but this was subsequently changed to Mondays. It also went on hiatus over the summer when the bulk of Cal students are out of town.

The closure means there is just one Off The Grid market now operating in Berkeley.

In February, Off The Grid launched a new Berkeley food market at the North Berkeley BART station. It takes place on Sunday nights, from 5:00-8:00p.m. The organization’s original market in the city, launched in the Gourmet Ghetto in June 2011 for Wednesday dinner, was closed at the end of the following year, despite being wildly popular, after neighboring brick-and-mortar businesses complained of unfair competition.

Peterson said it was sad the Telegraph Avenue market was closing. “Overall it’s been a positive in that it encouraged people to come to the district,” he said.

The Telegraph Avenue commercial district has been suffering economically for several years and is currently the focus of various improvement programs. Ambassadors from the Block by Block organization that has been sprucing up downtown Berkeley, this weekend began cleaning up Telegraph Avenue, removing unauthorized signs from light poles and sweeping sidewalks.

Tonight’s Southside Berkeley, which runs from 5:00pm-9:00pm, will include the following trucks: Frozen Kuhsterd, No Worries, Smokey’s and the Oyster Guy, Whip Out!, and Sanguchon. There will also be live music.

Off The Gird food trucks launch new food trucks market (02.04.14)
Off The Grid aims for new North Berkeley digs (11.05.13)
Off The Grid says goodbye to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto (12.20.12)
Off The Grid’s Telegraph Ave. debut attracts young crowds (07.13.12)
Off The Grid food truck fest to launch on Telegraph Avenue (06.22.12)
Local food names sign up for Berkeley Off The Grid truck (10.19.11)
Crowds turn out for Berkeley’s inaugural Off The Grid (06.02.11)
More local food trucks join Berkeley’s first Off The Grid (05.31.11)
Off The Grid to launch street food event in Berkeley (05.17.11)

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  • batardo

    OTG food is too expensive for students, duh.

  • Chuck Upps

    How will we survive the chuck wagon shortage?

  • Devin

    Sorry to hear about the southside OTG closing, I only went a couple times and, although closer to my house, it was more of a chore to get to than north berkeley BART. Speaking of the northside OTG, the weekend bart parking lot is a perfect venue allowing for much more space to spread out, have music, dancing, kids running around, pets…etc. Perhaps another space similarly tied to weekday activities (or vice versa) would be appropriate for a second OTG in Berkeley.

  • Cammy

    Too bad they took it away from the North Berkeley (Shattuck) area. It was always so nice to have.

  • emraguso

    Have you checked out the North Berkeley BART location?

  • Alina

    It was fun while it lasted :(… Telegraph area needs help. Too many vacant lots.

  • David D.

    I am not too surprised. OTG is not cheap despite the fact food is served out of trucks, and students can eat at any number of Telegraph Avenue restaurants for less. I would rather eat at a brick-and-mortar restaurant if I go to the hassle of traveling to that side of town, and I suspect I am not alone. On a positive note, the North Berkeley BART OTG appears to be doing well one month in. They did a good job with that one, as there is ample space in the parking lot and the nearest restaurant is 3 blocks away.

  • Bryan Garcia

    I think it really does boil down to price. Students are cheap and most food from these kinds of trucks isn’t.

    Interestingly, though, Koja Kitchen, which started out as a food truck at Off the Grid, now has a brick-and-mortar location on Telegraph, next to CREAM in the former Maoz spot.

  • K Rivera

    Off the Grid is supposed to be OFF THE GRID! Not in a busy part of town with a bunch of restaurants.

  • Cammy

    No, is it still going on? Do you know when and what time? Thanks.

  • John Freeman

    Off the Grid is supposed to be OFF THE GRID!

    You are taking your fake bohemian trends too literally.

  • rhuberry

    I live near the north berkeley bart and am bothered every sunday evening by having to listen to the boom, boom, boom of the amplified music for 2 hours. Why does there need to be music? Why not at least have it earlier in the day so I could go out and do something else during the day and not have to put up with the commotion.

    I also agree that there is very little need for food trucks in Berkeley which has so many restaurants featuring every type of food at every level of pricing. I’m hoping that the bart food trucks will soon decline in popularity as well, as the novelty wears off. I mean Berkeley is a small town, so no matter where these trucks are in central-ish Berkeley, there are plenty of restaurants within an easy walk. I can’t imagine that the north Berkeley BART off the grid won’t still take business from the local restaurants. And these trucks don’t seem to be particularly environmentally friendly. A lot of power has to be produced by noisy generators to run the trucks, the lights, the power for the bands and who knows what else. Also, I don’t enjoy the smells and the smoky fumes that emanate from these trucks. They just don’t seem appropriate to be plunked down in a residential neighborhood.

  • Truth Sayer

    I agree. Restaurant proprietors do have a valid complaint.

  • guest

    Sundays, 5pm-8pm, at the corner of Sacramento & Delaware.

  • guest

    “Fake bohemian?” My, what a more-hipster-than-thou attitude.

  • Heather_W_62

    Bah! Please don’t ruin this little bit of something cool here in our neighborhood. SURELY you can handle a couple hours of noise for something as community oriented and fun in the neighborhood. Betting you didn’t mind it being in someone else’s neighborhood, did you?

  • Chris J

    I agree–OTG is too spensive for a typical college student to afford on a regular basis, so moving it or having it at No Berk BART makes sense. We went once and the experience was…ok. Not cheap for food from a truck. As a matter of fact, wifey and I both felt that it was fun but too pricey for a regular visitation.

    I dunno…local is good, but what the hell is wrong with commercial produce (yeah, yeah, I know what’s wrong with it) rather than organic? I’ll live with the elevated risk of degenerative disease if it’ll save me a couple of bucks. Hey. I’m just being realistic. I’ve lived most of my life on commercial produce and if I’m gonna get sick from commercial items it’s gonna happen. Just sayin.

    I realize that this isn’t a real forward thinking view for changing the world and its environment and I applaud the movement to organic and natural but I’m not entirely prepared to pay for it with such a premium. At least, not every time I eat out. Just sayin.

  • serkes

    Pull the plug on Off The Grid?

    Well headlined, Berkeleyside!
    Well headlined!


  • Devin

    I actually think rhuberry brings up some good points about the trucks being environmentally unfriendly (I would love to see all solar powered trucks – it would be a great addition to the “off the grid” mantra) and there’s no reason it couldn’t move to a more central location in the bart parking lot, hopefully alleviating some of the noise and smells for much of the surrounding residences.

    There’s also no denying it will take business from the restaurants on shattuck and solano, but only because its a fun experience and most definitely community oriented (come out and see the babies and kids dancing, I don’t think they traveled from Oakland on a weeknight). Finally, regarding noise, I bike home from work past North Berkeley BART every day and there are people playing music out in front of the station just as loud as the music that is played at OTG and just as late many weeknights. OTG is only until 8pm in a public transit parking lot – I’m thankful that an under-utilized public space is being used in a positive manner. Come join in.

  • narumon1974

    bring on the food trucks. glad they came to North Berkeley BART in this neighborhood many international students and I call the morgue. Finally some fun and life once a week.

  • guest

    I also live near North Berkeley BART and you need to get over yourself. This is a great addition to the neighborhood that gives people who live around here an easy and fun way to support local businesses one night a week during reasonable hours (5pm-8pm). It also makes the neighborhood safer by getting more people out walking the streets. Remember the rash of muggings in our area just a few years ago?

    Take business from local restaurants? WHAT local restaurants? 7-11? Outside of the hills the areas near the North Berkeley BART station are some of the least walkable neighborhoods in the city.

    If you have a problem with the noise from the live music, go talk to the organizers and ask them to turn it down instead of trying to get the whole thing shut down.

  • guest

    It’s located where it is because that corner of the lot has the highest visibility.

  • guest

    >“Things like that are fun for those who like the party atmosphere,”

    You don’t have to hang out and eat there. Every time my family and I have gone, we’ve taken our food home.

    >“How is it community oriented?”

    It gives the neighborhood an excuse to get out of their houses and a place to come together and interact. Young families with children who aren’t age-appropriate to take to restaurants are a big part of the crowd at the North Berkeley Off The Grid.

    >“It’s the greasy smells and the din of the generators.”

    If you’re concerned about smells and sound, why did you move into a house directly across the street from a parking lot? The sound and fumes from hundreds of cars parking every day are far worse than the 3 hours of Off The Grid.

    As someone who’s lived in this area for more than a decade it’s disappointing to have antisocial, fun-hating people move into our diverse and fun-loving neighborhood and try to force your wants/needs on the rest of us. It’s too bad you didn’t move to the Berkeley Hills. The attitudes there

    are more aligned with your views.

  • rhuberry

    Yes I hear that music coming from the BART station during the week as well. So it’s not just 2 hours on Sunday. It’s sometimes many hours during the week as well. I’m the type that prefers peace and quiet and this noise spoils the calm atmosphere of the garden. With all the concrete and asphalt over there, sound bounces around and carries pretty far.

    I still think once a month would be better if they want to sustain interest. When it’s there every week it’s easy to take it for granted. There’s no particular specialness to it. First Sunday or last Sunday or something like that would keep it more novel.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Who plays music there on weekdays? Is it people with drums? People with radios?

  • EBGuy

    Well it ain’t a potlatch, but you have to admit that the OTG impresario found a legal way to tick off some of the locals.

  • rhuberry

    I bought here before BART was BART. A lot has changed in 40 years — self-centered attitudes being one of them.

  • rhuberry

    If you’ve only lived here 10+ years, then you’re the one who moved into the neighborhood. I’ve been here 40. I don’t think I’m trying to force anything. Just would prefer acoustic music rather than amplified.

    The neighborhood has always been diverse, but over time it is getting more densely populated. And until fairly recently there wasn’t nearly as much emphasis on commercialism everywhere all the time in Berkeley. Now it’s build, build, build, buy, buy, buy and spend, spend, spend. Very different ethic from the 60’s and 70’s.

    And really, you don’t know much about my views, only that I’m not a big fan of off the grid in any neighborhood in Berkeley.