When Taco Trucks Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Tacos
Los Angeles County has strengthened its law against taco trucks and other mobile food vendors at the insistence of brick-and-mortar restaurant owners, Jonathan Gold reports.
Last week, led by Gloria Molina, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors passed a law basically outlawing taco trucks, making it a crime for them to linger at one location for more than an hour, punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to six months in prison. (An old law directed trucks to move every half-hour, but the fine was low and the law largely ignored.) Taco trucks, at least the better-known ones, tend to be anchored to a specific location, often outside a nightclub. (If you are on Lexington at Western, you are eating at El Matador; if on Eagle Rock south of York, probably at Rambo’s Tacos.) Owners of brick-and-mortar restaurants are always complaining about unfair competition from vendors with lower overhead and fewer taxes to pay, although most of the really successful trucks seem to flourish in neighborhoods without many restaurants: on industrial strips, along stretches dominated by auto shops, light manufacturing and discount upholsterers. California has seen squabbles like this before — it took extensive legal action to get taco trucks back on the streets of Salinas after restaurant owners there managed to get them banned.
One would think that people seeking to have a nice, sit-down meal are unlikely to be siphoned off by the lure of mobile tacos and that, conversely, those seeking a quick, cheap bite to eat are unlikely customers for a full service restaurant. Presumably, though, fast food restaurants would feel the pinch.
I’m not a fan of rent seeking of this sort but can at least understand why tax paying restaurateurs would organize against competitors who are given relatively preferential treatment by the state. It would seem, though, that the construction of this law is too broad. Why not simply require comparable licensing for “permanent” mobile establishments and stationary restaurants? Or restrict the application of the law as currently written only to trucks operating within, say, a half mile of a fixed facility?
Via Craig Newmark via Chris Lawrence’s shared RSS.