Luncher Calls For Anti-Truck Brick and Mortar Boycott

Line of Trucks on 50th view 1We here at Midtown Lunch have long recognized the precarious position that gourmet food trucks are. Stuck in a grey area between legal and illegal, most veteran food trucks have chosen to lay low and fly under the radar, rather than stand tall and fight the all powerful rent paying brick and mortar businesses who would love to see them disappear.  Well, now that the fight between cops and food trucks has escalated Lunch’er Meghan has said enough is enough:

I work in midtown (52/51st and 7th), and suddenly all of my favorite trucks are being driven off by the NYPD.  This used to be one of the best spots for food trucks, and now it is becoming a ghost town.  Apparently it just takes one business owner to complain and the cops will force the trucks to leave their spot.  Could you maybe do a post on effective ways to fight this?

I would love to participate in a boycott of the brick and mortar restaurants on this block in an effort to get them to stop calling the cops.  Alternatively, it would be great to get some sort of legislative support going for this, which would allow food trucks to park without the threat of being forced off.  -Meghan H.

I don’t know. Push too hard and you might ruin it for all street vendors. After all, money talks. And in the eyes of the government those who pay rent are always going to win a battle over those who don’t. Then again we wouldn’t mind seeing the people rise up to protect our street food. What do you guys think?


  • Corporate interests always win. You need to start somewhere else, I say campaign finance reform before this….

  • I think that’s a completely irresponsible and unfair way to go about this. First of all, how do you know which businesses have complained? For all you know, it’s the office tower that’s putting the pressure on the cops. Second of all, don’t the brick and mortar restaurants have a legitimate beef? I say that they do. I’m obviously a big supporter of the trucks, but there’s got to be a way to keep the trucks without hammering the businesses they park in front of. The trucks don’t have a tenth of the headaches and expense that the store owners do. Legislation might be the answer, to limit their spots to areas where they won’t interfere with existing businesses (but I admit that the city council is the place where good ideas go to die).

    I support ALL small businesses, not just the ones that happen to be hip at the moment. The truck fad will certainly fade. Where will we be if the storefronts were run out of business in the meantime?

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    I’m with Rob. There needs to be a workable solution to allow both types to co-exist, but I’ll never endorse a boycott like this. And before anyone goes down that road, “competition will win out” isn’t the acceptable solution.

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    The solutions seems to be the Starbucks effect.

    First off, I agree with Rob. We don’t know who’s pointing the finger.

    But the answer in my opinion is the positive effect the truck MIGHT have on the brick and mortar stores. A quick experiment would help to better understand the effect the trucks have on surrounding restaurants and deli’s. Truck followers like myself travel many blocks to find their favorite trucks (many times for brick and mortars too). But if I’m busy at work and find the truck as a 30 min wait, I divert into whatever looks decent and quick. Often on blocks I’d never have gone to otherwise. Has this happened to anyone else?

    Starbucks has dubbed this “the Starbucks effect”. Where when they move into a neighborhood, the coffee stores around them flourish and/or more coffee stores open. Mainly due to their line being so long that people go to other shops to get their cup quicker. This was a feature on 60 min a couple years ago.

    Is that what’s happening with the Trucks? Are they pulling in more people & are they lines so long that some patrons are going into the stores? If so their’s your argument for keeping them around.

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    The best way to go about this is to appeal…to local representatives as much as I hate to say this. Apparently Oregon has a system that works, maybe we can adopt it? Wouldn’t it be great if trucks could be parked out for a prolonged period of time rather than having to call it quits so early?

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    I’m in that same building and I’d love to see the trucks come back. One a day, how it used to be, was a good set-up in my opinion. And I agree with @Nordeats – if the line was too long, I’d just go somewhere else but still close by.

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    It has to be done with City Government. The laws are the issue. If people want the trucks to be in their neighborhood they should speak out to the elected representatives. That’s what the people that don’t want the trucks are doing. The police are just enforcing the existing laws. The other thing that could help is to make your opinions heard to the management of these buildings. They are responding to the complaints of tenants but we are all tenants too. Make your opinion known to them. Put together an office petition. Have your CEO write a letter.

  • Can’t we just get along…and eat good street food? Nope, we can’t…

  • Word on the street – its not just the brick and mortar restaurants calling the cops. The hallal guys on the corner, threatened by these trucks, are calling the cops on them too.

    Changes have to be made within in the law and politics must be played right.

  • They could create several food truck parks, like on the Rutgers campus–kind of an everyday “truckfest square” kind of deal where trucks could rotate, or they could all just come to 32nd and 33rd on Park. Lots of trucks and carts park there with no hassle.

    • A few could also pool together to open a B&M as well. Call it the “Truck Stop”.

      You’re all witnesses on this website. I’ve trademarked the idea!

    • Bian Dang is in a food court. Schnitz opened their own B&M. It’s not impossible if they can get the funds to do it.

      A square of trucks would be awesome but might not be reasonable long-term in NYC unless you can get the city to approve of the designated area…Bryant Park again!!!

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      That’s so far away…but it would be better than 10-12th aves.

    • Who in their right mind would give up a million/billion dollar Midtown land space in order for trucks to park there a few hours of the day? They’d rather build high rises with commercial spaces downstairs.

  • I’m in the same building as Meghan and @korovka and have the same disappointment. However, I do agree with everything Rob said as well. But I can’t see the culprits being Le Beradin or Bar Americain. It’s just not the same draw of customers. Perhaps Cafe Duke, but given their daily traffic, I doubt it. I can see it being the different Halal carts. The motives are well in-line. Plus, it always seems that the cops come around 12:30ish…just enough time for the lines to really build.

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    Unfortunately, I think petitioning for legislation is the only answer. Whenever you have this dodgy “unwritten rules of the street” BS, only the entrenched or the rich make out. We need clarity in the regulations, and we truckgoers ought to make it clear we want choice in the neighborhood.

    I’m not sure how much effect a boycott of the brick and mortar establishments would help. I don’t know about everyone else, but I never went to most of them even before the trucks showed up.

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    From a purely capitalist perspective, those brick and mortar restaurants could always just step up their game to compete with the trucks. The trucks that truly succeed and wish to do so can open storefronts, IE schnitz.

    The law that the police are using to kick out trucks, the ‘no vending from a metered spot’ actually has been in existence for years, but it was never enforced against food trucks either because it just wasn’t a priority or because of the fact that the law iteself refers to vending ‘merchandise’ in a metered spot.

    As many of you know, SVP filed a lawsuit on behalf of Patty’s Taco Truck with the intention of nailing down a non-food definition of merchandise in the law, however the case was dismissed and they will be appealing that decision. Supporting that appeal, at the proper time and in the proper manner, would be an effective way for us to support the food trucks and change the law.

  • Although it involes more cost, why dont the trucks also attached a cart on the side walk. Use the trucks to cook, but then transport it to the cart and have it sold there. Many of the breakfast carts and halal carts have vans parked right outside their cart, and i see them move food in and out all the time.

    PS – I’m only novice when it comes to the actual laws, so maybe the above is not possible?

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      303 – the easier thing might to be to just build a cart, like what Eddie’s Pizza Truck did. The tricky part of your plan is whether or not the law would consider preparing and distributing food to the cart, to be vending. If not, I think this could work.

      • Very true. I thought of Eddie’s as well. A lot of the halal carts get “help” from within their van. so maybe sell the actual food truck, prepare more in advance, and cook everything at the cart?

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    I wonder if people who are calling for boycott or get disgusted by the Brick & Mortar owners have ever owned a retail business in a brick&mortar places. No disrespect, but what you guys are suggesting is very irresponsible and egotistical. Yes, you do get more options for your lunch, but for the business owners, their lives are at stake. I wonder if you owned a deli, you would have the same stance at the food truck that parks in front of your store or in the same block. Don’t get me wrong. I love food trucks and I’m all for having variety of lunch options. But you can’t simply go and park in front of an existing vendor, who by the way pays tons of rent, insurance, and handle all sorts of license and stuffs, and say you have the right to do business there. Try to find some place where you won’t directly affect someone’s livelihood. And seriously, you can’t depict the relationship between B&M to food truck owner as some powerful rich bourgeois bullying a weak, poor proletariat. Many B&M owners are simply ordinary entrepreneurs who are working their ass off to raise their family. So, please try to work some line that can benefit both sides rather than trying to portray one side as a blood-greedy devil.

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      Is it egotistical if you don’t want to eat at a crappy deli or chain restaurant for lunch? No one deserves your business if they aren’t selling what you want.

    • Irresponsible is opening a business that can only survive with no competition. If they sold something tasty and unique instead of having generic steam tables and sysco bagels, they wouldn’t have to resort to calling the cops.

  • In exchange for a street spot, I advocate trucks paying a fee to a brick & mortar escrow trust (i.e. protction money) which will be administered by me at a very reasonable administration fee of 98%.

    Everybody wins!

  • tumberi, you’re being a bit disingenuous here. Food trucks also have to be licensed, pay appropriate registration/insurance fees, etc. And the worker population density in midtown is large enough to support both trucks/carts and B&M establishments. Granted, B&M restaurants have higher fixed costs, but they can also offer other accommodations that trucks/carts can’t.

    Find a place that doesn’t affect someone’s livelihood? Exactly where in Midtown would you suggest? And parking by 1st or 10th Aves is not a reasonable alternative–convenience/accessibility is important.

    I’m intrigued by the halal carts being a possible source of complaints. Is the ban just on trucks, with carts being allowed? If so, then there is an unfair disparity. And the carts should be boycotted! (j/k, sorta.)

    • Tumberi & Steven are the epitome of the argument. If you own a business, how can someone start a competing business practially right on top of yours. Practically is the gray area because the street you dont actually own the road, but you do own the sidewalk in front of your address.

      they could try an amended law, perhaps you can’t park within 50 feet of a food establishment? it would be hard, especially in midtown tho. Maybe 30 ft and franchises (starbucks, mcd’s etc) don’t count?

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        The current rule for cart vendors (I believe) is that they cannot be within 20 feet of a store entrance, which is already very difficult when combined with the various other regulations, I think such a rule for trucks would, unless worded extremely carefully, be similarly problematic.

        Though I personally support the idea that franchises wouldn’t count, it’d be a legal nightmare ;)

      • The government owns a couple feet inland of all roads if memory serves, which is why you see the “Property Line” plaques feet from the street.

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    It would be great to have some space in midtown that could be a location for a food court-type gathering of the trucks that have been pushed out of the area.
    The B&M owners would be happy, the truck owners would be happy and the hungry denizens of midtown would be happy.

  • I think Pranzo is officially closed and the owner is looking. 50th between 6th & 7th. The sweet spot! If you put Mexicue, Korilla, Taim, & Sweetery in there, you are golden.
    ZB, make it happen!

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      I think this is the spot Big D’s was last Thursday and got kicked out. Sad too because Big D’s was amazing. I think a Halal cart called the cops on them.

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