Los Angeles’ curbside caterers, brick-and-mortar restaurants squabble over new parking law

Los Angeles’ curbside caterers, brick-and-mortar restaurants squabble over new parking law

LOS ANGELES —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

In fact, the County Board of Supervisors voted to double the former 30-minute time so-called taco trucks can park in one place, but raised the maximum fine for overparking from $60 to $1,000 and made violations punishable by up to six months in jail. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

The new law was adopted April 15 after restaurant owners in East Los Angeles complained that the catering trucks were stealing customers by parking nearby for extended periods or all day. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

In the past, many of the mobile restaurants just paid the $60 tickets as the cost of doing business, but now they face jail time and far steeper monetary penalties. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

However, the ire over the crackdown stirred up among taco truck owners is unwarranted and unreasonable, supporters of brick-and-mortar foodservice businesses contend. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

“It’s not fair,” said Louis Herrera, president of the Greater East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, who testified before the supervisors on behalf of restaurant owners who feared retaliation by the catering truck operators. “Restaurants have five or six employees who pay employee’s taxes. Restaurants pay sales taxes on sold sales. Restaurants must report where they purchase the food. Restaurant owners report income they make to the IRS. Most catering truck owners do not.” —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

Catering truck operators, however, disagreed, saying they do pay taxes and must foot the bill for permits and licenses while also submitting to regular inspections, just like restaurant operators do. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

Attorney Philip Greenwald, who testified in opposition to the new regulations on behalf of catering truck owners, described the law as “naked restraint of trade.” —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

“This is parking, after all,” he said. “They’re not selling pornography. They’re not selling numbers. They’re not selling drugs. They’re selling food and beverage.” —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

Greenwald said state vehicle codes allow municipal governments to enact legislation governing the sale of goods from trucks or cars, but only as that pertains to public safety, “not competition and defeating it,” and “not to enhance one businessman over another.” —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

Local laws concerning catering trucks long have been in place, however. Last year, Los Angeles County had approximately 2,500 licensed foodservice vehicles in operation, more than any other county in the state, as well as untold numbers of unlicensed mobile food vendors. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

Nationwide, rules similar to Los Angeles County’s former 30-minute parking limit and $60 fine exist where mobile eateries often cater to laborers at construction sites or areas where brick-and-mortar restaurants are not accessible. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

After Hurricane Katrina, for example, so many mobile vendors moved into New Orleans that parish officials last year set rules essentially banning such businesses. All mobile vendors there that sell cooked food must offer restrooms and a washing station and must reapply for permits every time they move to a new location for more than 30 minutes. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

New Orleans officials at the time said they feared such impermanent businesses would hurt conventional restaurants that were struggling to re-establish themselves in the storm-battered city. However, some critics view the new rules as an attack on the influx of Latino workers that flooded the region looking for construction jobs. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

In Los Angeles, mobile restaurants have a long history of acceptance. In some neighborhoods, new-fangled catering trucks have raised the bar by offering more upscale cuisines, such as Japanese dishes or organic fare. Last year, for example, Green Truck launched two mobile restaurants offering health-oriented foods. Partners Mitchell Collier and Kam Miceli plan to grow their bio-fueled fleet to 20 trucks in Los Angeles and elsewhere. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

In West Los Angeles, Akasha Richmond, whose Akasha restaurant and bakery offers sustainably raised foods in an eco-friendly setting, isn’t bothered by competition from nearby catering trucks. —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.

“That’s a hard job,” she said. “Everybody has to make a living. We’re so busy, I think there’s room for everybody.” —Catering truck operators here are mulling a possible legal challenge to a new county law making it a misdemeanor to park roving restaurants on the street in the same place for more than an hour.