Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design

4/16/2012

626 Night Market: Planning for the best case scenario

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

The 626 Night Market was swarmed last Saturday as thousands of patrons descended upon Oakland Avenue between Colorado Boulevard and Union Street. They were all there to get a taste of the street food goodness promised by Southern California's first Asian night market. In the offing were: stinky tofu, fried pig's ears, fish balls and all other sorts of Asian delights one usually only sees in glimpses around Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, the crowd proved too overwhelming for three first-time event planners. "We had 8,000 Facebook fans on the 14th and that's what we expected," Jonny Hwang, one of the founders said in an LA Weekly interview. "But how do you prepare for 8,000 versus say, 30,000?"

A view of the night market from the Fuller Library via @curiousliz.
But, having seen the event flow firsthand, there were a few things that 626 Night Market could have done to help mitigate the crowds. First and most importantly, figure out the food stalls. Despite being a given a rather large parking lot area, food stalls should have been given even more space. Their requisite kitchen and clean-up areas take up a lot of room and resulted in tight narrow lots.

Otherwise, intersperse food and merchandise stalls. Food stalls tend to be where the impossibly long lines form. By alternating between "fast-moving" merchandise stalls with food stalls, foodies in line might have found time to gaze at some merchandise, purchase a few trinkets and gotten their food all in one go.

Food stalls should also pick up the pace. While waiting at the Ray Ray booth, which took more than half an hour, I noticed servers were visibly frazzled but not really quite efficient. Receipts were misplaced, food was prepared in slow bursts perhaps because of the prep time needed for each dish. Stalls should be prepared to bring food out efficiently, or trim down their menu to offer only items that can be made in a few minutes' time.
The biggest traffic inducer throughout the whole food stall section were *drum roll* the throngs of people waiting in line. The line held up even people who simply needed to pass through the crazy mobs. Line traffic areas should be demarcated. This stops aimless wanderers from slowing down in the middle of the throng (and holding up traffic) wondering, "Where is the end of the line?"

Parking was also quite a mess that day. Even before going to the event, I was disappointed they hadn't chosen an area closer to a Metro stop, so people didn't have to bring their cars to get there. I did note many people came in carpools (great job, LA!).

While moving at a turtle's pace looking for parking, I had noticed lots that could have been used, but weren't that weekend, such as the Women's City Club of Pasadena, the Pacific Asia Museum or even the many office building parking lots around. It could take a bit of work to convince them to open their parking areas, but it would be well worth it to try especially when servicing upwards of 30,000 people in and around Pasadena.

I only had a two duck tacos that night, and I wish I could have gotten more. I'm sure many attendees felt the same way too. But the amazing turnout at the event only means that Los Angeles is hungry for Asian street food. That means more Asian night markets, less food frenzy and more tantalizing finger foods from across the Pacific by way of California.

Here are more ways 626 Night Market fans have suggested to make it better:


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