Nov. 3, 2015 By Michael Florio
The popular food truck Mexico Blvd, whose owners opened a brick and mortar restaurant in Astoria in 2014, shut down for good last week.
Owner Jordi Loaeza said he closed the truck on Friday since he found that the rules governing street vending in New York City had become so burdensome. He said the operational costs were high and the stress was even higher.
Loaeza, who runs the business with his parents, had been operating the food truck in Midtown, mainly on 46th Street and 6th Ave., for four years. For two years the truck served dinner at Ditmars Boulevard and 31st Street, until Loaeza opened Chela & Garnacha at 33-09 36th Ave. in April 2014.
He said the food truck was a very successful business that allowed him to open the restaurant, but the regulations had begun to take a toll on his family.
Loaeza said it is very difficult to get a permit to operate in New York.
He said that he had to obtain his permit through a black market that exists because the city only issues a limited number of vendor permits. Permit holders pay $200 to the city to obtain them, and then rent them out to vendors for a significant profit.
The holders continue to renew these permits, he said, making it nearly impossible for new businesses to obtain one without going through this black market.
Loaeza said he was paying $25,000 for a two-year permit.
“This is what almost all food truck owners and vendors have to go through,” he said. “They rent from a third party, not from the city.”
The city causes other headaches, such as issuing parking tickets and continually forcing the truck to leave its spot, according to Loaeza. He said many restaurant owners call and complain simply because the truck is parked by their establishment. An officer could then tell the truck to leave, which causes him to lose money.
“Worrying everyday about where you will park, being told to close up shop for the day or worrying about receiving a ticket takes away from the business,” he said. “It was so stressful.”
Between these fines and the permit cost, Loaeza said it was more expensive to operate his food truck than the restaurant.
“People think food trucks don’t have rent,” he said. “We paid more in tickets and the permit cost to operate the food truck than the rent for the restaurant.”
Loaeza said he hopes to see more regulation within the city and believes food trucks should be regulated similar to the way restaurants are. The first step would be to lift the permit cap, he said.
“If the permit cap was lifted I would be the first in line,” he said. “We would gladly pay for that permit as long as we had the peace of mind.”
In March, State Sen. Jose Peralta introduced legislation that would reform the rules governing street vendors. The legislation includes lifting the street vendor permit cap.
“Nobody is happy with the current system. Local residents complain, street vendors complain, small retailers complain,” Peralta said at the time. “The system is in disarray.”
In May, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland wrote an op-ed for Crains New York, arguing that the black market for permits is making it difficult for food vendors to make an honest living.
Loaeza food truck developed a strong following in Astoria, which allowed him to open the 36th Ave. restaurant.
Due to the food truck’s closure, Loaeza said he is able to devote more time to the restaurant.
The restaurant now opens at 11:30 a.m. to serve lunch. There will be additional items coming to the menu, such as sandwiches, Loaeza said.
Loaeza said he still has the food truck and is hopeful that new regulations will be implemented. If so, he would begin operating the truck again.
“We want to return to the streets,” he said.