Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Southern California sidewalk vendors frustrate food truck owners - VC Star

It’s become a daily ritual all over Ventura County.

At around 5 p.m., a white van pulls up to a street corner or a stretch of sidewalk. A few people get out and unload essentially an entire outdoor restaurant: tables, a shade structure, maybe a string of lights, meat, tortillas, jars of aguas frescas, tubs of salsa, a flat top griddle, a propane or charcoal grill, ice chests, warming trays, and almost always a trompo, the vertical rotating spit to broil pork on an open flame for tacos al pastor.

At the end of the night, it all goes back in the van, and there’s no sign the sidewalk taqueria was ever there.

These businesses don’t have menus, formal names or easily identifiable owners. They also don’t have running water, proper refrigeration or health department permits to prepare and sell food.

There are dozens of these food stands in operation every evening in the county, with the heaviest concentrations in Oxnard and Ventura. Most of them set up in the same spots every night and many have loyal customers, long lines and glowing reviews on Yelp and Google.

Inspectors with the Ventura County Environmental Health Division have shut down unlicensed food stands nearly 50 times since they began cracking down on them last summer, but it’s had little effect on their ubiquity. Most of the time, they’re back at the same place the next night or even later the same night.

If the inspectors seize the food, another van full of supplies rolls up, sometimes within an hour. Confiscating...

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