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Blind Item: Food Truck Follies

by ARLnow.com December 3, 2010 at 8:44 am 3,528 50 Comments

It’s been a while since we did a blind item, but this one was too ridiculous to pass up.

Which Rosslyn and Crystal City businesses have been calling the police on the new Bada Bing sandwich truck? Cops have shown up at the truck at least eight times since it launched just over a month ago, we hear.

Officers show up, dutifully check out the truck’s license and examine whether it’s parked legally, and inevitably leave without finding a violation.

Two businesses in particular have been very proactive about calling the cops when Bada Bing shows up in their neighborhood.

“It happens at those two locations pretty much every time we go there, sometimes multiple times per day,” said Bada Bing owner Nicholas Terzella

  • Travis

    Weaksauce. Wouldn’t you think that the police would eventually ask the frequent complainers to shut it?

    And, I’d love to see an article that summarized the food trucks currently patrolling our area, along with twitter/website info – that would be an article to bookmark!

    • achris

      this link will show you what is in the area: http://foodtruckfiesta.com/

      • Travis

        Awesome! Thanks!

    • Irv

      These food people are just trying to make a living….stop bitching.

  • DudeGuy

    I saw the truck earlier this week in Crystal City. It was across the street at the shops near the new Chick-Fil-A. Cop rolled up in his car and was talking to the manager and looked to be asking him about his establishment and some papers… manager showed it to them, Cop gave him his card they shook hands and cop drove away.

  • G::NativeArlingtonian

    Whom ever those offending restaurants are… they are douchebags.

  • Rosslynite

    I recall that Baja Fresh forced District Taco’s move down the street. I would boycott Baja Fresh for that reason if there were any liklihood that I would ever step foot in that establishment, which there is not.

  • Darwin

    …meanwhile real crime is happening…

  • Ashton Heights Guy

    Argh. The ArCo cops have time to harass this poor small business owner (who clearly has all his ducks in a row) and yet can’t even be bothered to show up when people park across my driveway.

    • Anonymous

      Do you call the police and they not show up? Tow the car – what do you need police for?

      • Ashton Heights Guy

        Yup – sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. I asked about having cars towed and I was told that I cannot do that – only the county can, since it is not private property.

    • If they get a complaint, they pretty much have to check it out.

    • Just the Facts

      Patently absurd. Cars parked on public streets blocking a driveway will absolutely bring 100% response from police. Maybe not in the timeframe you want (parking violations being low-priority calls and all) but they are not ignored.

  • Andrew

    Interesting to see the restaurant’s true colors when there is true COMPETITION in the lunch and dinner market. Instead of calling the cops, cut prices. Or try new items on the menu. Or something to bring more customers in. Don’t call the cops because, as Dawrin said, there is real crime happening.

  • ChrisW

    Waffle House would never harass food trucks!

    • YTK

      Neither would the Wafle Shop in Alexandria (LOL)

  • OddNumber

    Personally I have no issue with food trucks, but I could see them being a real problem for a restaurant. If a food truck pulls up everyday or even just once a week in front of your restaurant during lunchtime and pulls away some percentage of your business then it makes it more difficult for that restaurant (which serves the local residents throughout the day and evening) to stay in business. Is the only limitation on a food truck that they be parked in a legal parking space?

    • Artie Fufkin

      How is that any different than say another brick and mortar restaurant opening up on the same block? Would you call the cops on them to check their licenses?

      • Westover

        Well if the new brick and morter resturant was built on the sidewalk in front of the old one, I could see the problem….

        The BadaBing is great, I love the spedies! Hopefully they are not just parking in front of resturants blocking the views of their signs though. I have only visited them while they were parked at the VA SQ Metro blocking nothing.

      • Hey_Ovie_Go_Long

        There are usually a lot more barriers to entry for bricks-and-mortar restaurants – lease payments, tenant improvements, etc.

      • Virginia^2

        If I planned on opening a restaurant, I wouldn’t sign a lease without some kind of assurance of stability – proximity to the competition, potential development, a work or residential density that could sustain the lease payment, etc. Food trucks are a total wild card thrown into the mix because they have a sort of novelty to them and are totally mobile.

        I don’t know what the exact processes and costs are for starting a food truck but I can only imagine that they are substantially lower than the investments required by a physical, sit-down eatery. I would be upset, to say the least, if Arlington County received a permit fee and said “great, go ahead and park in any legal spot in the county,” the result of which was that food truck parked directly in front of my restaurant and diverted business. When Bada Bing parks in Virginia Square, I can only imagine that the Metro Deli and Cosi see fewer people walk through the door (Bada Bing is delicious). But can you really say that they even should have THOUGHT about that situation when they signed their leases?

    • Sam

      Consumers will make the choice between two establishments based on which one offers more appetizing food at a good price. Businesses need to stop assuming that just because they have no nearby competition, that they can raise prices, lower quality, offer shoddy customer service, etc.

      It is up to the customer to choose where to eat. It is not up to the business to limit the customers’ choices. If it is more difficult for the business, then the business needs to adapt to the market like the commenter above said. Lower prices, innovate, treat customers better, etc.

    • OddNumber

      All good points. I’m still curious what, if any, restrictions are placed on the location and number of food trucks in Arlington. Seems like it would be detrimental to the neighborhoods if food trucks pushed out brick and mortar businesses.

      Part of the business plan that would evaluate opening a restaurant would include the area competition and potential future competition. I doubt many businesses assumed in their business plan that a food truck might camp out in front of their location and pull away customers with better prices or food.

      • Just the Facts

        What’s the risk of food trucks pushing out B&M restaurants?!? We’re going to eat all our meals standing on the sidewalk or sitting in our cars? Silly….

  • Dale

    What’s a “Blind Item?”

    • Rosslynite

      It must mean they are fishing for a story but do not yet have all of the facts that would actually make it a story.

      • Andrew

        It’s a feature in most gossip columns that reports an event but doesn’t name names. The New York Post’s infamous Page Six column is chock full of them every day. A typical item would be something like “Which starlet was seen last night canoodling with not one but TWO dancers at XYZ Club?”

        • Dan

          Okay which dancers were ???

          ;>)

          • Andrew

            And that’s the fun of a blind item. You get to know what’s going on, but not entirely so you have to guess. Plus, it gives the gossip columnist so power over the subjects, who can also provided dirt and info.

  • Lacey Forest

    You would think that after a few unfounded calls, APD would start to take action against the complainants.

  • Courthouse Resident

    I think the next time the cops should show up – check the license – then order their lunch and go (with food in hand) over to the complaining restaurant to tell them that they are ok to be there.

    • Katie

      Not until there’s a donut and coffee truck.

  • JamesE

    Do these trucks take visa? I always walk by them but I never have cash on me. I am also too lazy to walk up to said truck and ask them.

  • TonySoprano

    As an Italian-American, I am totally offended that these restaurants would assume something criminal just because of the truck’s name.

    But seriously: Bada Bing folks, what restaurants are doing this? We can make sure they sleep with the fishes.

  • Michael

    In Rosslyn, the Bada Bing truck usually parks near Quizno’s. I’m not assigning blame to them, but since they serve similar fare, they would be the first that I would suspect.

  • John

    Why is this surprising to anyone, folks in Arlington call the police if the wind blows the wrong way. Unfortunately Arlington County HAS to respond to these complaints, just like all reported noise violations even if they are frivolous calls… The worst part is that even a FOIA request will not reveal the complainants.

  • bennynojets

    I am not sure if Arlington is the same as DC but the problem lies in that they are not competing on a level playing field. Food trucks in DC only pay $1500 per year in sales tax where brick & mortar shops pay the going rate of 10%.

    Don’t get me wrong I love food trucks and frequent them, but there is some inequity.

    • Gabe

      I have to agree with bennynojets on this. I think the explosion of food trucks is great for eaters. However, I see how it can be a real problem for brick restaurants. They have huge capital costs compared to food trucks. Don’t forget, too, that they almost certainly have more employees than a truck.

      Since this is such a recent phenomenon, I think there are going be some growing pains as rules are worked out that will be equitable to everybody.

      Still, though, it is totally ridiculous if the same restaurants keeps calling the ACPD. That is harassment. {And a waste of tax $$.)

      • Boom! Roasted

        Agreed.

        • Andrew

          You’re right. There is inequality. That’s why the food trucks exist. They saw the lousy tax policy AC has — and figured a legal way around it. Good old American ingenuity at work here. The real problem isn’t the restaurants neccessarily. It’s the tax policies that force them to shell out so much money, which causes them more overhead, which trnaslates into higher prices for customers.

          • Hey_Ovie_Go_Long

            The taxes are actually borne by the consumer in the first place, and it’s up to the restaurant to remit to the state and county taxing authorities.

    • Darwin

      I too agree with bennynojets on this issue however I still think he was wrong to support Michael Dukakis in 1988!

      • bennynojets

        If Geo. H.W. Bush would have rode on a tank, I might have been able to support him.

  • Rosslynite

    No one is stopping a brick and mortar guy from opening his own food truck if he thinks they are so profitable. I suspect that they make more profit in the brick and mortar store even with increased competition from food trucks.

  • So what sales tax do the Arlington trucks pay? What are the exact rules? In the last city I lived in, the trucks couldnt park in front of any restaurant or retail businesses that were open for business….

    • Novanglus

      Here are the guidelines:
      http://www.arlingtonva.us/Departments/HumanServices/pdf/guidelines.pdf

      Note that it says that they may stop in “motor vehicle parking spaces when directed to do so by a customer. Once stopped, they may remain there for up to 60 minutes.”

      A food truck can’t do anywhere near the same volume as a restaurant with a full on-site kitchen. The good trucks have long lines to order, and then you wait in the cold (or heat) for your food. If there were an indoor counter nearby offering the same food for $1 more, I’d go there. But I’d wait an hour in sub-zero weather for Bada Bing or District Taco (not that you have to) rather than walk into Quiznos or Baja Fresh.

      Trucks pay the same meals tax (4%) as restaurants. They pay a $500 vendor tag, while restaurants pay 0.20% Business License Tax (a restaurant pulling in $2.5M per year would pay $500 in BL). Trucks must have a base of operations, so they pay taxes on that space and on the equipment there, as well as the property tax on the truck itself.

      All in all, these guys aren’t getting a free ride. The trucks are basically incubators for new food concepts, and the good ones become restaurants (see Pupatella, District Taco, Sweetgreen, etc).

  • Clizzledizzle

    The problem I see with food truck being able to park in front of a brick and mortar is this… when you establish a brick and mortar you scope different locations and base your choice on and a lot of factors a couple being best demographic and you try to pick a spot where you are the only, Burger, place for example, in that immediate area. You can factor in that there is not much room for competition to move in next to you. Then next thing you know a burger truck parks in front of your store…Doh!! not so cool.

  • Colbert Nation

    I support the food trucks. Food is food, and good/safe food business get my money. As a customer I would demand that the trucks following all health regulations. I would also support a law banning food trucks from parking in front of an established food business (not including places like 7-11 or a quickie mart). Also, food trucks should clean up after their customers and provide a removable trash can for those that eat near the trucks. Finally, food trucks must pay the same taxes and fees as B&M establishments. It is only fair. Otherwise, let the eating begin!

  • Steve

    Gentlemen start your enzymes!

  • I would love to see more food trucks around at night. Clarendon is so busy and it’s tough for a resident to get in most places after 7 without waiting an hour.

    One thing that has worked really well in Austin, one of the capitals of the Food Truck dining scene, has been and evening parking lot (or Food Trailer park) for all of them to frequent together.

    There has to be a vacant lot in Arlington, perhaps behind 11th St Lounge or somewhere close, where they can pay a fee and all setup together each night, then it would be a destination so to speak.

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