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Monday, August 30, 2010

Opinion


Food Trucks And Juice

Ruby's Cafe on Hollis Street serves several different kinds of juice. Ruby's owner, Albert Repola knows a lot about juice, and he's using it right now at City Hall, trying to oust food trucks that he sees as rapacious competitors. Mr. Repola has been very vocal in this view, repeatedly demanding action from City Hall. Officials, who seldom act in the benefit of small businesses, suddenly appear unusually responsive, vowing to add further regulations to the city's Food Vendor Ordinance.

At a time when the popularity of food trucks, especially those serving more upscale cuisine is growing exponentially in the Bay Area, Emeryville it seems, is destined to go the other way. And it's all because certain small business owners that, with justification, feel they have special access to City Hall and want to shut down the competition.

This is not hyperbole. Limiting competition is among the seven objectives of Emeryville's newest government entity: a 'Food Vendor Task Force" according to a story concerning the formulation of the body in last week's e-newsletter from City Hall. The story examines how the new 'food vendor task force' will investigate making the ordinance more rigorous. In addition to "limiting competition", the items being considered include:
  • Limiting the geographic area that mobile food vendors may operate
  • Limiting the number of mobile food vendors
  • Raising permit fees
  • Regulating mobile food vendors on private property
  • Use of public right of way for cooking, seating and/or storage
  • Developing remedies for non-compliance with the ordinance

This list clearly shows who's got the juice in this town. It's very telling that none of the bullet points from the city are in support of food trucks and it's very clear that residents that happen to like food trucks are not going to be listened to.

We are chagrined that the bullet point list makes it obvious that City Hall is LOADING THE DECK and not interested in presenting unbiased finding of fact for this task force. At the Tattler, we have to ask why? Could it possibly be political patronage at work? After all, Mr. Repola has been very generous in his support of the Council majority over the years.

Nevertheless, times are tough, and everyone is looking for a scapegoat. If Mr. Repola's business isn't quite as prosperous as it once was, perhaps it is the result of the unemployment or foreclosure rate, rather than from "competition" that cannot offer shelter from the weather or the amenities of a restaurant.

Unlike some restaurant owners, the food truck vendors have not paid money to the re-election campaigns of the Council majority. Maybe they think they'll get a fair shake at City Hall regardless. Obviously, these vendors are new to town; they may know about food but they're obviously selling the wrong kind of juice in Emeryville.

22 comments:

  1. Next, we'll learn that the council will limit kids' lemonade stands since they provide unfair competition to established restaurants.

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  2. Great story, Tattler! I also thought the notice in the city's newsletter was biased against food trucks. Why can't we ever get an even playing field fro the city?

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  3. Who said that this council is conservative right wingers? It is no suprise they always have gone the liberal way. This blog is right, vigorous competition, a conservative virtue, makes sense.

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  4. I wish I could get rid of my competitors by telling my friends on the council too. For me, I've just gotta try to do better than them...no bailouts for me. Oh to be connected like this Ruby's guy is!

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  5. Yes - this is clearly an attack on the mobile vendors. The city seems at the outset to not give them any voice or chance to defend their businesses. Certainly, they should be subject to the same regulation and fees/taxes as real restaurants, and Mr. Repola has every right to voice his concerns, but this is all about flexing questionable influence with the council and squelching competition.

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  6. I like the tomale truck at Doyle Park. Is that going to be forced out?

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  7. Mobile food vendors are a very difficult issue to deal with. They use the public property for an essentially private purpose (retail sales.) Thus, they should be regulated in a reasonable way. Fixed places of business are subject to zoning laws. Vehicles on the street are typically not, but when they are selling goods, they should be. You should not be allowed to make your entire income by using public property without reasonalbe regulations. The questions that the City has identified as needing further study are excellent and the same issues that other cities deal with. There should be a limit in the number of mobile food vendors in town. I don't think anyone wants food trucks to get out of control.

    BTW, the City has bent over backwards to accomodate the taco truck near Hollis and Yerba Buena. They even altered their plans for reconfiguring the traffic lanes on Hollis to accomodate the truck--much to my chagrin.

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  8. This is a really tough subject. The County of Los Angeles recently changed their ordinance to basically ban taco trucks in East LA becasue they became such a problem.

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  9. You are labeling this one blog entry as 'Opinion?' That's rich. This whole blog is filled with opinion. I'm afrid to imagine what doesn't even meet Brian Donahue's standard for news.

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  10. I've never been "afrid" to make it clear this blog is news and views about Emeryville from a pro-resident perspective. I've said many times on the blog there is an editorial slant in favor of residents here, so any time there is public policy formulation that is detrimental to making this a more livable town for the residents, it's going to be squewered in this blog. Call me a pro resident ideologue. Don't like it? There's always the Chamber of Commerce produced 'Emeryville Connection' if you want the pro-developer ideological view. BTW, this is my opinion.

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  11. All news has a slant. The objectivity idea is fallacy. 'Fair and balanced' is not possible and to claim otherwise is BS.

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  12. Anybody that thinks the food trucks are going to get a fair hearing are fooling themselves. It's obvious the fix is in and it's in favor of Mr Ripola. We should all boycott Ruby's Cafe after this fiasco.

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  13. I already boycott that place.

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  14. Just send them all to the Bee Hive in Berkeley and we can all have a mini 'Eat Reat' festa everyday!

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  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  16. The city is making a huge mistake if they get rid of the food trucks. People come from outside Emeryville (Berkeley and Oakland) to eat at them, bringing tax $ to the city. (Yes, food trucks pay sales tax. They also pay a quarterly permit fee). And the trucks give Emeryville a certain cache in the foodie circuit., which is why Oakland is finally reviewing their antiquated and flawed food truck zoning.

    The trucks fill a need for good and fast food in the city. Mr. Repola should see their popularity as a wake up call to improve his product. That's what a free market economy is all about, right? Competition improving the market place? People aren't going to eat at Ruby's when he finally pushes the trucks out - they'll bring their lunch or go elsewhere. Because the food at Ruby's is just meh. And people don't want to spend $ on meh.

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  17. Richard D - East Bay Food ConsumerSeptember 11, 2010 at 3:12 AM

    This is a difficult topic. Restaurants and commercial real estate owners are facing dimmished demand. Comsummers, with less income, due to reduced hours and compensation, need healthy, tasty, less expensive alternatitves to "brown bagging" their lunch. How do the city fathers make everyone happy? I believe that the now national fad of food trucks be allowed to flourish. In a true capitalistic society, the consumer is the one who anwsers the question. A good, well run restaurant, with great service and quality food, will always outlast the fads. And the really high quality, dedicated food truck operator, would love to open a restaurant. Let the consumer be the real deciding factor.

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  18. Disclosure For Readers-

    I have applied to the Food Truck Task Force. Since I have strongly expressed views that food trucks are good and City Hall has already stated it wants to clamp down on food trucks I will not be allowed to serve on the task force. But the act of submitting an application will help illuminate the officially denied but existing predetermined agenda by the City. A better city would not have predetermined how it will rule on this or any other issue.

    Brian Donahue

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  19. All I have to say is... I miss the Argentine Asado! :(

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  20. Mr. Repola unfortunately doesn't understand that getting in bed with corporate statism usually ends up with the little guy getting crushed anyway. Whatever precidence he gets set now can be easily used against him in the future.

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  21. http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2010/09/emeryville_restaurant_owner_sa.php

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  22. How is it I've lived in Emeryville for 10 years near Doyle and 55th and I've never seen or knew about the Emeryville food trucks

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