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Falls Church is no longer forcing La Tingeria to shut down by January

The City of Falls Church is no longer forcing La Tingeria to shut down its new restaurant by January, a city spokesperson tells ARLnow.

Last month, the popular Arlington food truck La Tingeria set up shop at 626 S. Washington Street in Falls Church. But only a few weeks later, the city sent a notice to owner David Peña saying it was pulling the restaurant’s certificate of occupancy due to neighbor complaints about customers parking on neighborhood streets.

The shop was going to have to close by Jan. 2, 2022, barring an appeal.

But now, it appears the city is backtracking and will not be revoking La Tingeria’s certificate of occupancy, at least not yet.

“The City of Falls Church and the business owner are working together to create solutions to the parking issue. The owner has already made improvements by marking the onsite parking,” Falls Church Director of Communications Susan Finarelli says. “The City is working with the neighbors and looking at the right-of-way to help with traffic and parking on the dead-end residential street. As this positive momentum continues, we anticipate not revoking the Certificate of Occupancy in January.”

This comes after ARLnow reported on the story and customers reached out to the city to express their support for the restaurant.

By revoking La Tingera’s certificate of occupancy, the City of Falls Church may have been in violation of the restaurant’s constitutional rights, according to the Ballston-based Institute of Justice, a national nonprofit that helps businesses fight against what it views as government overreach.

“Under the state and federal constitution, people have a right to run their businesses without being subject to unreasonable and arbitrary laws,” senior attorney Erica Smith Ewing told ARLnow. “I think there’s a very strong argument that forcing restaurant owners to be responsible for enforcing the city’s parking laws is completely unreasonable.”

This could have been handled by the city issuing parking tickets, notes Ewing, not the disproportionate response of threatening to shut down a business.

“Especially with the economy as it is, it’s shocking that the city is punishing a restaurant for being too successful,” said Ewing. Locally, the Institute for Justice previously took up legal cases in Arlington after county crackdowns on food trucks and a mural next to a dog park.

In the notice sent to Peña, the city cited that the restaurant’s violation of Sections 48-58 and 48-1004 of the City Code.

When ARLnow reached out to Falls Church about La Tingeria’s violations earlier this week, a city spokesperson was only able to provide one line from section 48-939 that reads “No portion of any required off-street parking or loading space shall occupy or use any public street, right-of-way, alley or property, except by expressed permission of the city council.”

Ewing wasn’t surprised by this lack of clarity.

“This isn’t the first time city officials have said that someone is violating a law and haven’t been able to show them how they’re violating it or why,” she said. “[Peña] shouldn’t have to dig through outdated codes to figure out what he did wrong. The city should be helping him understand and fix the problem.”

It appears that the city is now doing just that with La Tingeria.

Peña tells ARLnow that he’s very happy with this development, but remains fearful there could be more issues going forward.

Despite a challenging first few weeks, he still believes that the Falls Church will be a great home for La Tingeria’s popular queso birria tacos and chicken tinga.

“I absolutely [want] to stay here and see how much we can grow,” Peña says. “This is just the beginning.”

Photo (2) via Google Maps

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