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O.G. Taco Truck in Pacific Palisades Served ‘Cease and Desist’ By Law Firm Representing Ralphs

In their cease and desist letter, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (DWT), the law firm purporting to represent Ralphs, alleges that Barrientos has “encouraged customers to use the parking lot owned and operated by Ralphs” that Gracias Señor parks adjacent to.

11:57 AM PST on January 12, 2024

Credit: Gracias Señor Taqueria

A law firm claiming to represent Ralphs supermarket chain has threatened to sue a beloved Pacific Palisades taco truck that has parked outside one of their client’s locations for ten years unless it relocates. 

During an interview with L.A. TACO, Rudy Barrientos, owner of Gracias Señor Taquería, recalled a man with “very short hair,” wearing “a white shirt and jeans,” handing him the cease and desist letter “in the middle of service” earlier this week.

“Rudolfo?” The man said before handing him the letter.

“Did you just get served?” A customer asked.

“I think so,” Barrientos replied before continuing to prepare orders.

In their cease and desist letter, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (DWT), the law firm purporting to represent Ralphs, alleges that Barrientos has “encouraged customers to use the parking lot owned and operated by Ralphs” that Gracias Señor parks adjacent to.

“Your activities must stop immediately, or Ralph’s will pursue its remedies in court and will seek recovery of its substantial legal costs and fees from you,” the letter continues.

According to the law firm's website, Barrientos says the letter was signed and delivered by Jacob Harper, a partner in DWT's commercial litigation practice group.

Harper’s letter cites a 2012 lawsuit between Ralphs Grocery Company and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 8. 

“As the California Supreme Court held: ‘the areas outside individual stores’ customer entrances and exits, at least as typically configured and furnished, are not public forums,’” Harper’s letter says. “This is because solicitation poses a significant… risk of interfering with normal business operations.”

“Solicitors such as yourself are engaging in exactly the type of activity Ralphs’ policies and the numerous court cases prohibit… ” the letter reads.

The 2012 suit was filed after a labor union began picketing in front of a Ralphs Grocery store entrance. In their lawsuit, Ralphs argued that because the union was using their private walkway without complying with the supermarket's regulations, the union was trespassing on its property. 

Barrientos says that he’s seen Harper come by his truck before and believes he’s “using this as an opportunity to kick us out of the Palisades” because he doesn’t like street vendors.

“This seems very targeted to me,” Barrientos said during an interview with L.A. TACO.

Gracias Señor has been serving the community of Pacific Palisades for a decade now. Barrientos decided to park his Mexican food truck in the affluent, mostly white neighborhood because the person from whom he bought his first food truck used to vend in the area. Rick Caruso opened his fast-casual Mexican restaurant a few feet away, Qué Padre, in 2021.

Having earned a degree in business, Barrientos saw an opportunity to expand on the business that the food truck owner had started—which at the time catered mostly to landscapers and service industry workers.

Gracias Señor started on Temescal Canyon, “closer to the beach.” But Barrientos was encouraged by people “from the community” to park at the Ralphs on Sunset Boulevard because they believed  “it was a better spot for him.”

Since then, a few other taco trucks and stands have followed Barrientos’ lead. 

Barrientos says the cease and desist letter isn’t the first instance of someone from the community trying to “attack” his operation in some way. It’s always been apparent that there’s “a big group of people” that don’t want him there, Barrientos said.

“I do understand where [Ralphs] is coming from,” Barrientos admitted. “But I also feel like they’re not seeing the positive that we bring to the community.”

“I do think they benefit from us also being there,” Barrientos continued. “It creates a destination point. [Our customers] do also go buy and shop for things at Ralphs.”

As of earlier this week, Barrientos said he’s leaning towards finding a new location for his taco truck. 

“I don't like being in a place where I don’t feel welcome,” Barrientos said. 

As much as it would hurt him to leave the people who appreciate and support him, he likes the idea of moving to a location where he’s more welcome.

On Friday, Barrientos confirmed he’s exploring his legal options and may move back to the Ralphs location if city laws permit him to do so.

Barrientos sees this as an opportunity to have a “fresh start,” but he also wants to be careful about not infringing on another street vendor's turf if he chooses to relocate. 

“It’s a tough decision,” Barrientos says.

Aside from this recent hurdle, business is going well otherwise. In the last ten years, Barrientos has watched his sales increase roughly 20 percent each year, he says.

“Our work, quality, and dedication to that spot… shows in those numbers. The only issue that we always have are battling against the people that don’t want us there.”

Barrientos sees the competition and struggles as part of doing business, though. 

“In some ways, it elevates the level in which you operate.”

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