Goodbye Trucks, Hello Cars: Co-Op Food Court to Become Parking Lot
By Jake Herman
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — Local food trucks are looking for a new place to park after the University Co-Op announced it is closing the food court behind its Guadalupe Street retail store.
In a letter sent Sept. 23, Co-Op Chief Operating Officer Kristen Huffman informed food truck owners that they will have to vacate the lot by Oct. 31.
The space will be converted into a parking lot for store employees.
“We had a record number of students looking for parking, and that’s really where the gears started turning,” Huffman said. “Our main business is our retail operation, it’s not being a landlord.”
Since 2013, a rotating cast of food trucks have formed a semi-circle in the lot, offering a variety of local and international cuisine.
The Co-Op does not own the space behind their retail store. Instead, they lease it from the neighboring University Baptist Church each year. Huffman said that while the food truck court has great tenants, the project failed to draw more students into the store.
“Students who buy food there don’t really go into the Co-Op at all. “It’s kind of disconnected” she said.
Juan Lozano has kept Jefe’s Tacos in the food court since its inception. (Photo: Juan Lozano)
Juan Lozano and his wife have made their living as the owners of Jefe’s Tacos over the past eight years.
“[The letter] just caught us off guard and we didn’t really know what was happening. I am trying to stay around the UT area. It’s just too hard not to,” Lozano said.
Other food court tenants such as International Grub have already been forced to leave the UT area altogether. Owner and chef Alon Ytshaky said that most areas near campus are either full for the year or outside of his budget.
“They kind of just dropped the ball on us and threw us into the deep water. It put a lot of pressure on me and my family,” Ytshaky said.
He moved his truck to South Congress Avenue Oct. 12. Despite the good relationships they built at the Co-Op, Ytshaky expects the other displaced trucks to each pursue different parts of the city.
“If we had more time to find a place, that would have been the fair thing to do. It’s the middle of the year, and they left us in a really bad bind,” Ytshaky said.