Taco Trucks In Court?
Attorney says Salinas' planned ban is illegal.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
The issue has made it into the New York Times and upset food bloggers on Chowhound. And now a nearly two-year battle over the future of Salinas’ taco trucks may end up in court.
City officials are finalizing a law that will likely call for the phase out of all stationary catering and produce wagons by 2011. Under the draft ordinance, vendors in ag fields and industrial areas would be allowed to stay in business, but trucks on city blocks, serving up everything from tacos to seafood, would be eliminated in four years.
David LeBeouf, a Stockton attorney representing 21 out of the 31 permitted vendors, says this plan violates the state vehicle code. “It will have to be challenged,” he says. “The vendors want to stay in business.”
Chris Callihan, senior deputy city attorney, says the ordinance is intended to transition the caterers into restaurants. “That’s not putting them out of business,” he says. “That’s enhancing their business.”
The City Council is expected to consider the new law on July 10.
LeBeouf says he has made inroads on some aspects of the ordinance. He says taco trucks will choose between two shifts—9am to 6pm or 6pm to 6am. Plus, he says the City has removed language that would have prevented vendors from parking within 300 feet of a restaurant.
But restaurant owners won’t be happy with this provision. They complain the taco trucks are unfair competition because they don’t have to pay overhead costs, as do brick-and-mortar establishments.
The Salinas United Business Association, which represents East Salinas merchants, voiced concerns over illegal vendors and unsanitary food that led the City in December 2005 to ban new food that vendor licenses for a year. After the moratorium expired, the council capped the number of permits at 31.
SUBA President Dave Brown says the organization doesn’t want taco trucks parked bumper to bumper on East Market Street. “Where those trucks are parked we’d love to see restaurants,” Brown says. SUBA wants to set up an incubator program for vendors looking to become restaurant owners.
LeBeouf says this proposition is ludicrous. “If these people wanted to own a restaurant and could afford to own a restaurant they would,” he says. “Most of them can’t afford that.”