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.

Related:
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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