Operations Continue But New Signage Has Been Posted
By Zach Armstrong
Rudy Barrientos has been operating the beloved Gracias Señor Taqueria taco truck in Pacific Palisades for a decade. It wasn’t the first time, but once again in recent weeks, he was confronted by efforts to displace services.
In the middle of a customer transaction, a man Barrientos described as wearing a white shirt and jeans approached the truck. “Rudy?” said the man. “Yes,” Barrientos replied before being handed two stacks of paper. The man then swiftly left without explanation. “Did you just get served?” asked the customer.
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, a law firm representing Ralph’s supermarket chain, issued a cease and desist letter to Barrientos alleging that his customers create a hazardous environment. The street vendor is parked adjacent to the grocery franchise’s Palisades location on Sunset Boulevard. As reported by LA Taco, the letter stated that the vendor must stop activities or else legal remedies would be sought in court. It went on to cite a 2012 lawsuit which stated areas outside stores are not public forums for risk of interfering with business operations.
According to Barrientos, the lawyer also cited a recent incident prior to Christmas where an alleged customer got into a heated altercation in the parking lot. If that situation, or one similar to it, dangerously escalated, Ralph’s could be held responsible in which case legal fees would be pinned on Barrientos.
Davis Wright Tremaine did not immediately respond to inquiry from Mirror Media Group.
Barrientos halted operations on Sunset for approximately a week while seeking legal advice from local lawyers. He was informed by them that he was not breaking the law since his truck is on public property and the parking lot is not owned by Ralph’s. The lawyers and Barrientos contacted the supermarket chain along with the lawyer who served the letter but haven’t received a response, said Barrientos. Signage has since been posted by the food truck asking customers not to use Ralph’s parking lot.
“We will continue to operate until something else comes up or people don’t want to buy our food anymore,” said Barrientos.
Gracias Señor Taqueria started off closer to the ocean on Temescal Canyon. After some convincing from customers that Sunset Boulevard would provide more visibility, the truck has since been perched in the Palisades business district. Even though Barrientos describes it as “part of the business,” several occurrences have made operations difficult. Some of which include complaints to parking enforcement asking to issue the vendor a ticket and one woman who recorded the truck repeatedly saying “You shouldn’t be here!”
These complications have made the possibility of relocation something to consider. If it came to that, Barrientos says potential new homes would be Koreatown or Santa Monica. However, the food truck industry is competitive and animosity often rises when a new vendor sets up shop on another’s established turf.
“If you show up to a new spot where other vendors are and start vending it’s not good for business because we don’t want bad energy,” said Barrientos. “I feel like the trucks around me all have their own customers but I’m not sure if others are as welcoming.”