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BREAKING: Long Beach Food Truck Owners Victorious After Protesting New Street Signs Banning Them From Setting Up at The Pike

Photo: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Food truck owners from Shoreline Drive protest outside city hall after parking restrictions forced them out of the area.

Food truck owners in Long Beach came together Friday morning and marched to city hall to protest the parking restrictions placed on Shoreline Drive. A lively street where these food trucks have been serving food to their community for over four years. 

This followed a Zoom meeting they had Thursday evening to strategize the next steps after some food truck operators noticed signs going up earlier that day that read “NO Parking on This Block.”

To them, the signs meant they aren’t welcomed. “No nos quieren,” said Jorge Mercado of Inglorious Funnels food truck, who has been selling in the area for about four years. 

Like him, other food truck owners believe the removal stems from rivalry from restaurants in the area that blame their mobile food for their loss in revenue. 

“One of the main restaurants accusing us of this is Gladstone’s because they are the ones who have complained the most,” he said, describing the restaurant as a high-end seafood place. “But I don’t understand why they think we’re taking business away from them when none of us sell what they sell.” L.A. TACO reached out to Gladstones for comment yesterday and has not received a response. 

CBS reported in August about the ongoing tensions between restaurants and the food trucks that line Shoreline Drive. Vendors tell L.A. TACO that they are confused about the blame being placed on them. 

Some food truck owners like Lupe Godinez, owner of Hibachi Queens Food Truck, said competition between businesses is something that everyone has to deal with. Misconceptions about what a food truck pays, what permits they need, and if they pay taxes are also a reason why they think these restaurants are taking a stance against them.

“We deal with competition all the time so do restaurants, so what is the difference between this restaurant competing with the restaurant next to them?” she tells L.A. TACO outside City Hall. “Another thing, we also pay our taxes, have our health permits, we follow the rules, so what is the issue?”

In an interview with NBC4 in August, Ciaran Gough, president of the Long Beach Restaurant Association, said:

“The premise of a food truck would be to provide food where restaurants or brick and mortar isn’t available…But if they’re parking outside a restaurant or around the corner then that’s not really fair."

However, food truck owners like Arturo Rodriguez argue that not only do they not make nearly as much as a brick-and-mortar business makes, but they take in customers who want to eat at their trucks because they offer different food.

“I don’t think it’s fair. There are many restaurants that allow food trucks to set up near them; it benefits everyone,” he said in Spanish. “There are people who don't want to wait an hour or two for food so they come to us, these restaurants are constantly busy, having some people come to us does not affect them the way they say it does.”

photo: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
photo: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO

He’s right. A recent study suggests that food trucks actually compliment brick-and-mortar businesses, especially restaurants. The study which examined 12 years of census data on food trucks and restaurants, shows how the impact a restaurant takes when food trucks are present is not entirely high.

“We contribute a lot to the community. Before all of us started to set up here, this street did not look like this. It was dead,” said Godinez. “Now it’s alive. We feed our community, workers, and tourists. There's room for all of us.”

Even employees in the area, including those at Gladstone's, the restaurant accused of complaining about the trucks, benefit from the food trucks as many of them and their employees enjoy eating from the trucks during their lunch. L.A. TACO received a photo of employees in surrounding restaurants' uniforms confirming this claim.

Although the signs did not include the words food Truck on them, operators like Godinez said the description on the signs describe a vehicle like a food truck. A representative from Senator Lena Gonzalez’s office did show up to talk to them about the situation and to figure out a solution for the business owners. Another representative from council member Mary Zendejas’s office, who runs District 1 in Long Beach, was also set to meet with food truck owners later on Friday. 

After their march to city hall, some food truck owners arrived at Shoreline Drive, where they were told that Public City Works were the ones responsible for putting up the signs. No reasons were given as to why they went up in the first place. L.A. TACO did reach out to officials and the restaurant accused of instigating the closure, but no response has been given yet. 

In the end, the food trucks were victorious as signs began to be removed from the area as of 2:40 P.M. on Friday, about four hours after their march to city hall began. Their WhatsApp group chat blew up with “amazing news!” Nice work, everyone!” and videos of the signs coming down.

“We did it! ” said Rodriguez in a video showing the signs coming down. "Look! thank God this sign is coming down, and all the rest are, too, please help us continue to preserve this place. People love our food, and we're here to stay."

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