The gourmet food truck craze that has swept through Los Angeles now faces a major barrier to entry in Monrovia after the city enacted regulations restricting where the mobile vendors are allowed to operate.
The City Council passed amendments last week to Monrovia’s mobile vendor ordinance that bar food trucks from operating in Old Town and residential areas.
Councilman Tom Adams said the council took the action to preserve the atmosphere of Old Town and prevent mobile vendors from creating unfair competition to Old Town businesses that are more invested in the city.
“This is just tryting to keep a certain ambience in downtown and also recognize the contribution that brick and mortar businesses make that mobile food vendors don’t make,” Adams said.
Old Town businesses pay rent, property taxes and fees to the Monrovia Old Town Advisory Board (MOTAB) merchants’ association to be able to operate in the district. Allowing mobile vendors to open up shop in the area without making those contributions would be unfair, Adams said.
“To have someone say that they want to come and take advantage of that without contributing to it just doesn’t pass the simple test of fairness,” he said.
Tina Yeretsian, who owns a mobile vendor business license in Monrovia for her Hungry Nomad food truck, said that the new restrictions effectively allow the city to choose one type of business over another.
“I dont really think it’s fair but we’ve been getting that kind of treatment for awhile,” Yeretsian said. “I don’t think they realize the amount of money that we invest in business licenses.”
Yeretsian’s truck, which serves Armenian and Meditteranean food primarily in Los Angeles, has not yet made its way out to Monrovia. She was planning on coming to town soon, but had second thoughts when she learned she would not be able to operate in “the heart of the city.”
“I probably would not come out there unless I’m on some kind of a private lot if I’m not going to be in Old Town,” she said.
About 260 businesses in Old Town belong to MOTAB and pay a special assessment on their property tax to help maintain and market the downtown shopping district. Brian Whelan, the owner of Foothill Gym and chairman of MOTAB, said the new restrictions essentially just codify policies that were already in place.
“Anything that we do, we don’t allow outside vendors into the area,” Whelan said.
For example, a shoe store from out of town could not just set up shop during the city’s street faire when MOTAB already has shoe shops paying extra taxes to operate their businesses in the area, he said.
“If you’re paying extra taxes, and someone comes along who’s not paying taxes, it puts you the merchant at a disadvantage,” Whelan said.
Alice Griselle, the city’s community development director, said that very few mobile vendors have come to Monrovia thus far, with the exception of the famous Kogi Korean barbeque taco truck. She said the new rules were designed to keep Monrovia “ahead of the curve” should food trucks make a more concerted effort to operate in the city.
Resident Mike Hattar, the owner of Aram’s Ice Cream, petitioned the city to allow him to operate his ice cream truck all year.
“Due to all the extra cost of running the business, three months was not really enough to recover my expenses,” Hattar said.
Hattar said the recession has seriously cut into his profits over the last few years and he anticipated that having more time to operate will help.
“It’s something better than nothing for now,” he said.