Press Club

La Tingeria in Falls Church may be forced to close due to neighbor parking complaints

The past month was supposed to be validation for David Peña and his taco eatery La Tingeria, a popular Arlington food truck.

La Tingeria recently opened at 626 S. Washington Street in Falls Church, ditching the usually-busy food truck — at least temporarily — for a brick and mortar restaurant.

It was going to be a challenge, but Peña was looking forward to having a shop to call his own after nearly a decade of serving tacos out of a truck in various Arlington locales.

However, after only being open for three weekends, Peña last week received a notice from the City of Falls Church and a visit from city officials, telling him that his certificate of occupancy was set to be revoked in 30 days due to complaints from neighbors about parking.

“My office continue to receive daily complaints from neighbors and now [the] City Council regarding City Council regarding your customers parking on neighborhood streets,” said a notice which Peña posted on Instagram. “This is a violation of your certificate of occupancy, and Sections 48-58 and 48-1004 of the City Code.”

As a result, the taco shop is being forced to close by Jan. 2, 2022, barring an appeal.

“I’m not doing anything illegal, but I’m being punished like I am,” Peña tells ARLnow. “How did it get that far so quick when we haven’t even had our grand opening yet?”

Early last month, Peña told ARLnow that he tried to open his restaurant in Arlington, but rent was too expensive. Hence, the move to Falls Church.

He thought La Tingeria, known for queso birria tacos and chicken tinga, had found a perfect home, but now he’s not so sure. Peña admits that when he leased the space on Washington Blvd, he knew the parking lot was small and that there was potential it could fill up quickly.

“We are a popular place, so it was in the back of my mind,” he says.

But he didn’t imagine the situation would rise to this level so quickly.

In recent days, Peña has tried to alleviate the problem by posting more signs on his shop and information on his Instagram telling customers where they can and can not park. The forbidden areas include W. Westmoreland Road and Summerfield Road across the street.

Thursday post on La Tingeria’s Instagram about where to park (Photo via screenshot/Instagram)

Since there are no official signs in the neighborhoods about no parking, Peña said there’s only so much he can say or do.

“I’m asking [customers] to be courteous to our new neighbors… but unless there are signs up saying that you can’t park here, people are going to park there,” Peña says. “There’s nothing I can do about that.”

What’s more, says Peña, the restaurant is currently only open at lunch time on weekends. So, if the claim of “daily” complaints are true, then most of those shouldn’t be attributed to the eatery. He notes that there are plenty of other businesses, including car dealerships, in the area that could be contributing to the problem.

When the city official stopped by last week, Peña says she told him that he should consider hiring extra staff to monitor parking. As a small business that’s just opening its doors, additional hiring is not tenable, he says.

“The [city] is trying to make this my problem,” he says. Later, in a text, Peña wrote, “I honestly just feel like I’m being targeted and harassed.”

In response, a Falls Church spokesperson says city staff plan on working with La Tingeria to figure out a solution to the parking issue.

“The Zoning Administrator has provided notice that the Certificate of Occupancy for La Tingeria is to be revoked on January 2, 2022. This time frame was provided to allow La Tingeria time to either appeal the determination or provide required parking for its business,” Falls Church Director of Communications Susan Finarelli tells ARLnow. “La Tingeria is allowed to continue to operate at this location during this period of time, during which time City staff will work with the business owner on parking solutions.”

Despite the financial hardship, Peña is planning to hire a lawyer to appeal the decision. The appeal itself will cost $300, not including attorney’s fees, per the notice.

In the meantime, the parking fiasco won’t stop Peña from opening on Thursdays and Fridays as well, starting this week. He knows, however, that if the brick and mortar restaurant is forced to close in the coming weeks he may have to go back to selling out of his truck.

“At the end of the day, I can only do so much,” Peña said.

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