Restaurants say food trucks are hurting business


Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the food trucks line up on Front Street near Vallejo, and so do the customers. One person told ABC7 News, "We work right up the street, so it's really convenient and it's always local."

Local is a big selling point with these trucks -- local ingredients, house made, organic. But what these trucks are is mobile, not local.

The local are the brick and mortar restaurants that have been in this neighborhood for years. And every single one of them says the trucks are cutting deeply into their business.

"Almost 40 percent less than what we usually do," Café DeStijl owner Fredy Tamraz said. "Which is very alarming to me." Tamraz says that if things don't improve he'll be out of business within a year.

The Coffee Roastery sandwich shop says business is down 50 percent on truck days. At Hunan's it's 25 percent. Meanwhile business is down about 15 to 20 percent at businesses like Yoyo's, Enselada, Togo's, and Hot Wok. Grumpy's reported Wednesday's lunchtime crowd down about 50 percent.

"When we first got started, we only had two trucks here because we wanted to do proper outreach," Matt Cohen said.

Cohen is a broker who set up these trucks on Front Street. He says it was never his intention to cut into the neighborhood businesses. But when they objected to the city, he had no choice except to hire a lawyer to defend his permits.

"Our only mechanism for recouping that cost was then be able to operate our permit to the full extent we were able to," Cohen said. So now he's running four trucks on this block of Front Street.

Last year Cohen was one of the committee members who helped draft the city's new food truck ordinance. He then bought permits from the Department of Public Works. And he charges the trucks rent to use those permits -- roughly 100 to 200 dollars a day, $15,000 a week, $300,000 a year.

Mark: "That's a pretty good cash flow."
Matt: "I mean, that's our business model."

At City Hall I asked the Director of Public Works Mohammed Nuru why his department would permit four trucks to line up in a neighborhood with nine other lunchtime restaurants in a five block radius.

Nuru answered, "My gut feeling is that a lot of these trucks should be in areas where there's limited access to restaurants." He says the food truck ordinance still has some kinks that need to be fixed.

County Supervisor Scott Wiener says he's working on it, "You know the proof is in the pudding when you look at the lines at a lot of these food trucks people want them and like them."

Wiener knows the trucks are popular. He doesn't really believe they'll drive anyone out of business. His new ordinance will require trucks to move 50 feet from an existing restaurant. 50 feet, that's next door.

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