Pret a Manger & Bistro Milano Call Cops on New Street Sweets Truck

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It sounds like 55th Street btw. 5+6th has been nothing but trouble for the brand new Street Sweets Truck since they popped up last week. On Monday, they complained that “politics” forced them to move to a different spot. Commenter “bm2e” seemed pretty pissed: “This is BULLSHIT. The carts on the block at 55th and 6th are a standard hot dog cart (pretty good, reasonable prices) and a mediocre halal cart that isn’t even there every day. Add to this poor showing the fact that the crap Italian restaurant in the first floor of 1350 6th Ave actually went and rented a U-Haul to prevent the truck from parking.” (I got confirmation that Bistro Milano, the Italian restaurant inside 1350, did indeed rent a UHaul and put it in the spot to prevent them from parking there on Monday.)

Well, it looks like it all came to a head yesterday when I noticed the scene above in front of the truck just before Noon. I asked one of the cops what was going on and he seemed all too excited to tell me.

“You want to know what is going on?”, he said. “I’ll tell you exactly what’s going. That place right there (pointed to Bistro Milano) and that place right there (pointed to Pret a Manger) are both pissed because they pay all this rent to this building and now this truck is selling food right outside their door.” And naturally, because it’s the same kind of food they’re angry. “That’s the thing!”, he continued. “It’s completely different! That restaurant right there is fancy, and doesn’t even open until lunch. What do they care if these guys are serving coffee and muffins in the morning. This truck is following all the laws. They’re doing nothing wrong. You don’t want them to park in front of your business… you know what? Too bad. This is America!”

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He obviously wasn’t speaking as an official spokesperson for the NYPD, but seemed genuinely annoyed that they had to waste their time coming out to take care of this nonsense. In addition to the cops, the Fire Department and HAZMAT (the guys who handle hazardous material!?!) were both called to the scene by the owner of 1350 6th Ave. (the building that houses both Bistro Milano & Pret).

The landlord has complained directly to the Street Sweets truck a number of times before yesterday. The initial complaint was about the noisy muffler that disturbs the diners eating outside the restaurant on the sidewalk. So Street Sweets spent almost $2000 ordering a silent muffler which will arrive next week. But that wasn’t enough. The building then complained about the smell of diesel, but the truck’s engine is off during most of the day, running on propane generators (and when the truck is running, it runs on bio-diesel.) So, they switched to complaining about the smell of grease and oil- but Street Sweets does no frying on the truck, so there is no oil or grease.

Clearly the building just wants them gone, but according to the Fire Captain on the scene the truck is breaking no rules. They have the legal amount of propane on the truck and are parked in a completely legal spot. As long as they can withstand the complaints and harassment from the building, they can stay there.

The problem is, they’re not just getting it from the building. The other street vendors in the area are unhappy as well- most notably the morning coffee cart. Street Sweets, in an effort to be a good neighbor and to show they’re not interested in stealing business that other carts have worked years to build up, agreed to not sell regular, American coffee before 11am. Only espresso and cappuccino, which in theory wouldn’t infringe on the sales of the coffee cart. Not sure if that will be enough to satisfy, but we’ll see.

Either way, Pret still wants them gone. According to the owner of the Street Sweet Truck, one of the managers of Pret complained to him yesterday that the truck was “destroying our morning business.” The truck’s owners find that hard to believe since they took in less than $100 (if even that.) But in this economy every bit counts, and (while this may surprise you) I do see the other perspective.

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Pret and Bistro Milano pay a lot of money in rent, and their competition was clearly defined before they moved in. There are a limited number of places to rent space. If we allowed *direct* competitors to just set up on the sidewalk in front of every business in the city, it would be pretty bad for business across the board. To top it off, there is no question that al fresco dining is a big part of Bistro Milano’s business, and having a truck parked so close to their sidewalk area is no doubt annoying.

On the other hand, 55th street is zoned to accept street carts and trucks, and if the truck is breaking no law they should be allowed to stay. And they’re not the only truck that parks there. The street is jam packed with idling delivery trucks all day long. Is Bistro Milano going to go after UPS?

I’ve always been quick to criticize street carts who bully other street carts that are not competition. Halal vendors should not bully a cart selling Mexican food or Korean food, and Mister Softee shouldn’t bully a lady selling cookies and brownies. It’s not direct competition. But what about when a new truck shows up that clearly does effect your bottom line. There is no question the Street Sweets truck will negatively effect the businesses in question. Most directly, Pret and the Coffee Cart- and indirectly, they will effect Bistro Milano by making their outdoor dining slightly less pleasant.

So what’s the answer? My gut says “bring on the trucks, and let the strong survive!” But that system would benefit some at the expense of a lot of hard working people who have spent years building up their business. It’s easy to say “Screw Pret”, but a little harder to say “Screw that guy making $15,000 a year selling coffee and doughnuts.” You can’t have it both ways. No matter what concessions they make, the Street Sweets Truck parking on 55th will hurt the coffee vendor too. In a lot of ways, the surrounding businesses are lucky that Street Sweets are at least trying to be good neighbors (ordering the muffler, not serving coffee before 11am, etc.) They aren’t legally obligated to do any of those things.

I’m not sure I know the solution, but I do know this: As more and more of these new-school trucks and carts start popping up in Midtown, the problem is just going to get worse. And bullying and intimidation tactics are not the answer. Whether it is direct threats from another vendor, or a restaurant calling the cops.

According to their Twitter, the Street Sweets Truck is back today on the SE Corner of 55th & 6th.

Related:
Halal Vendors Chase Happy Well Being Cart
Rafiqi’s Tries To Intimidate New Mexican Cart From 49th Street
The Treats Truck Will Try Her Luck at 45th St. Today

81 Comments

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    At first I thought Danny was calling Zach a p*ssy! Haha. But kidding aside, I say leave the truck along. Competition is what makes food in NY so good. If they are losing business, the restaurants need to step up their game.

  • Adding Bistro Milano to my ‘avoid’ list. I like how they call themselves ‘Authentic Northern Italian’, yet they have french fries, creme brulee, and Apple pie on the menu.

    Also, if you want to get technical, Spaghetti chitarra is from Abruzzo (middle Italy) and spaghetti alle vongole is usually found in Southern Italy, typically associated with the Amalfi/Napoli region.

    All around failure as a concept, a restaurant, and as human beings.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Dear Bistor Milano – have you ever thought to listen to the NOISE coming out of the vents by your kitchen? The exhaust fan noise and heat is far worse than that coming from the truck that you think it threatening your business. You deserve to waste money on the U-Haul everyday and I hope you are rewarded with a parking ticket from some stupid underpaid ticketmaid. Even if the ticket won’t stand in court – someone will have to go waste their time to fight it. Why don’t you try to create some advertising campaign that would be rewarding to capture business. Offer free dessert to people who have drinks or food? In the mean time – stop trying to grab for straws.

    Dear Pret – are you kidding? You are worried about this truck? Everything you sell is prepackaged.

    Dear Street Vendors – get a life…period.

    All those who feel threatened have just made me want to encourage everyone I know to walk past those who are being stupid to patronize the sweet truck.

    Kudos to the sweet truck for trying to be a good neighbor.

    The strong will survive!

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Its amazing how untruthfull and totally bogus this story is!!!!!. I work at the building and the only problem is the annoying, unbearable sound that is coming from the truck. Nobody can work or enjoy their food while dining at the restaurant. According to the sergents onsite, there have been 150 calls to the 19th precinct by people on the block complaining about the continuous droning sound from the truck from morning to night. People across the street posted flyers in complaint about the truck’s exhaust. The decible level from the exhaust pipe angled straight at the buildings is too loud and mind numbing for people to enjoy their food with the doors open, but because the truck has a permit he is allowed to be as disruptive and disrespectful as he wants. The notion that Bistro is in any competition with this truck is completely moronic. They just want the sound from the exhaust minimized so their patrons don’t complain. I eat there all the time and its obvious if you walk by!!

  • IT’s all very involved.

    But i really dont give a flying fuck.

  • Mobb Deep: ‘survival of the fittest, only the strong survive.’

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    @535Madison right on, brother! My buddies and I walked by Bistro Milano on the way out to get lunch today and noticed the din coming out their kitchen door. Compared to that, the low puttering noise from the Street Sweets truck is nothing! God, those guys suck. (Although Bistro, if you’re reading this, and I suspect you are, the new awning/umbrellas are very nice looking; too bad I’m boycotting you.)

    @Bistro2009 ROFLMAO @ this Bistro Milano shill! At least pick a more subtle screen name.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I will agree with the previous commentary in which complaining about the endless sound of a mobile truck parked in front of established businesses has nothing to do with the curtailment of the right to access free competition in our country. This is not about the big fish telling off to the little fish; it is about common sense in the business world. Vending trucks have the right to sell just as much as long as they do not infringe upon others vendors’ rights. The fact that they sell coffee after 11.00 o clock and try to differentiate their menu from other establishments and vendors is highly respectable and a great example of fair competition. The nobility of such act, however, is not enough to justify their presence in a vending capacity in front of an establishment such as Bistro Milano that captures its attention and delivers its image through a seated patio which is inevitably compromised by such predicament. If someone parks in front of a an art piece (not wanting to refer to Bistro Milano Bistro as an “art piece”) to sell postcards, and obstructs a certain prospective and light from the viewers, it would, at the end, infringe upon the rights of the ones that would like to benefit from such a view, especially if they pay for it. The patrons dining in the patio of Bistro Milano have the right not only to be served within the parameters of the designated patio but also they are entitled to enjoy the surroundings and every other element which makes their experience rewarding. Such right extends and not solely to the right to have the street sounds at a reasonable level without the augmentation of unnecessary ones, such a mobile truck making constantly noises through their ears. Obviously, the city cannot shut off and we know that sound levels in New York are not compatible with the ones of “Green Rapids”, for example. However, measures should be taken by the City of New York to protect the rights of the establishments that have integrated as part of their business concept an outside space and for which they pay for and whose integrity ends up being violated by the presence of external elements such as vending trucks or other paraphernalia directly or indirectly limiting such potential. Vending trucks should not have a problem in locating in a different area still lucrative and business viable, assuming that their price point is, needless to say way more convenient than the more expensive establishment they compete with.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    By saying bistro 2009 works in the building and eats there all the time, they clearly forgot to add that they do because they work at Bistro Milano. Retarded shill can’t even help putting the word bistro in his/her name.

    By the way I work at the building too and truck is quiet as a church mouse.

  • I was just there 5 minutes and the truck was closing up shop. The guy said that Bistro Milano was somehow able to force them to move. There was another midtown luncher there the same exact time. I saw the BM people gleefully watching the sweets truck close.

    I saw where the truck is parked. It’s nowhere near the BM. There was actually a huge Utz (or something like that) truck closer to BM than the sweets truck. The sweets truck had no effect on BM.

    This sucks. Fuck Bistro Milano. I will never step foot in that place again and I will encourage others to boycott it too. And you can also express your displeasure through ratings…

  • If the Bistro people want to complain about noise, we should give them something to complain about. Maybe we should have a little protest tonight during dinner time. Say 6:30… I wonder what they will think about “the noise” then.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    chitarraapedali, holy shit you Bistro Milano shills are fucking hilarious!

    Why don’t you get back to running your restaurant instead of posting specious diatribes here? You do know that the service at your joint is a little slow right?

    I’ve eaten there several times, again I work at 1350, and won’t be doing so again. Why? Because you’re fucking with my options. I want the option to go to the Sweet Treats truck just as much as I want the option to go to your place. Well, as much as USED to want to go your place.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    6:30 is a little late for a Friday in June. I’ll voice some anger a little earlier though.

  • i stopped by and chatted with the owner also. he said, as zach’s article pointed out, that he has an attachment to silence the muffler on the way.

    if this is the biggest concern for BM and Pret then they should just be a little patient. it seems like the SS truck is trying to do everything they can to be good neighbors. and i commend them for that.

    also, i had one of their woopie cookies and a coconut macaroon. the woopie cookies was soft and sweet. i decided to be nice and offer the macaroon to my boss.

  • I second “Fuck Bistro Milano.”
    I hope this truck does steal all their customers.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    sweet treats has built a better mousetrap. i applaud them.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Sorry to report, but I just took a long walk to the truck only to have the owner tell me that they were being forced to close. The window was open, but an employee was in the process of shuttering the mobile foodspot. I told the owner that I had read that the police declared the spot “legal”. He confirmed this, but added that the owners of Bistro Milano placed another call to the authorities and that this time they really had to go. His only advice was to check Twitter for updates because any new spot is undetermined, as far as I can tell. What a terrible disappointment when all I wanted to do was savor my Red Velvet Cupcake in front of BM.

  • @chitarraapedali

    hahahaha. You’re dumb. Seriously? That’s like the first person who built a tall building saying, “yo, everyone else, you gotta respect my right for my skyline view. so no one build a taller building. ok?!?!”

    this is new york. why don’t you grow up?

    the fact is that business with a brick and mortar presence should figure out how to get a truck going. it’s that simple. so what if a few Prets or a few generic coffee carts go out of business? You know, someone else will be willing to move into that space in the building, and if no one else moves in at the given rent rate, then the building will lower the rate until someone rents the space out.

    it all works out in the end. what is disgusting is that a brick and mortar business sees the competitive advantage of a food truck, and takes these bush league tactics to try and survive. srsly?

    Zach can’t actually say stuff like this because he needs to be as fair and impartial as possible.

    But I don’t give a fuck. Let’s all boycott Pret and Bistro Milano.

  • Yep!! I’m boycotting Pret and Bistro Milano!!!

  • I was at the truck today and whatever “noise” coming from it is hardly anything compared to the standard horn honking, yelling cabbies, cell phone yakers and basic drone of NYC. Lame excuse.

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