SF: Restaurant Owner Succeeds In Blocking JapaCurry Truck

John Birdsall Harvest and Rowe's Alison Rowe, feeding the meter at the Second Street space where JapaCurry has a permit to sell.

By John Birdsall | Editor | SFWeekly.com

John Birdsall Harvest and Rowe's Alison Rowe, feeding the meter at the Second Street space where JapaCurry has a permit to sell.

Update, 4:30 p.m.: Alison Rowe says it was a coincidence that her car was blocking JapaCurry’s two spaces, says she’s merely one of 20 local brick-and-mortars who object to food trucks in the neighborhood.

Things are getting messier in JapaCurry’s struggle to do business in two spots it has permits for in the FiDi. You’ll recall that Harvest and Rowe cafe owner Alison Rowe vowed to keep the JapaCurry truck from doing business on Second Street, promising to block his truck. It appears Rowe has made good on that threat, at least last Thursday, parking her car in the space JapaCurry has a permit for on Mission and New Montgomery streets.

JapaCurry owner Jay Hamada tells SFoodie that last week on Jan. 27, his crew arrived at his parking space on Mission just after 9 a.m. (the time he’s legally allowed to begin parking there) only to find a gray Toyota 4-Runner (Cal. license plate: 5B81088) occupying the spot. At about 10:40, a woman arrived to pump more quarters in the meter, which has a one-hour limit. “My worker said to her, ‘How long are you going to stay?'” Hamada says. “She said she didn’t know, and when my worker told her they had to park there, she hesitated and then goes, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you,’ and then puts lots of coins in the meter and hurries away.” Best case scenario, JapaCurry wouldn’t be able to occupy the spot until 11:40. So instead, Hamada ordered his crew to drive the van to 8000 Marina in Brisbane for lunch.

Was the woman Alison Rowe? Yesterday, SFoodie went to 75 Second St. ― the space JapaCurry is allowed to sell on Mondays and Tuesdays ― at about 9:30 a.m., just in time to see Alison Rowe parking a Toyota 4-Runner with the same license plates. Busted. We left Rowe a phone message earlier today asking to explain why she happened to be blocking JapaCurry’s space on Mission last week. Read our interview with Rowe here.

Does Rowe have a right to keep JapaCurry off the street where she’s done business since 2003? Not according to the law that applied when JapaCurry received its permits from the S.F.P.D. (New mobile food vending rules, which take effect this month, call for notification of existing business and public hearings to raise concerns about competition and other issues.) And she certainly doesn’t have the right to block JapaCurry from Mission and New Montgomery, around a corner and nearly 600 feet from Harvest and Rowe.

It’s costing Hamada money not being able to sell where the law says he has a right to. When JapaCurry and its crew of five has parked on Mission Street, it’s sold about 200 meals at lunch. In Brisbane or South San Francisco, where JapaCurry has been parking Mondays and Tuesdays until Hamada has ― voluntarily, by the way ― agreed to find a new spot to replace Second Street, JapaCurry is only able to sell half that many lunches.

Has Alison Rowe won? So far, yes, though Hamada says he’ll try for Mission Street again tomorrow. And so far, the city has failed to help Hamada and Rowe find a solution. We hope to report more on the city’s role later today.