Coffee truck clashes with established San Francisco restaurants

March 20, 2013 8:33:09 PM PDT
A food fight is back at San Francisco City Hall. The Board of Appeals is hearing objections to a coffee truck that wants to park in front of an existing restaurant.

I first reported on this fight late last year, in December, after Downtown cafes complained that food trucks were cutting significantly into their lunch time business. Wednesday night, the Board of Appeals will take a look at a coffee truck that's already operating Downtown, but wants to move to a more lucrative location.

Espresso Subito's operates most mornings in an ally off Mission Street, near Fremont Street. The owner declined to talk with us, but we know from permits filed with the city that he would like to move to a more visible location on 2nd Street in front of Harvest and Rowe restaurant and across the street from Starbucks.

"You ask the restaurants like Harvest and Rowe and others that are in the impacted area, 'What is the biggest part of your business in the morning?' It's coffee, all kinds of coffee," said Ken Cleaveland, the policy director of the Building Owners and Managers Association, also known as BOMA.

Cleaveland says Espresso Subito is just the latest in an onslaught of food trucks invading Downtown. The trucks are operating on permits from the Public Works Department.

We talked to Public Works director Muhammed Nuru last December. That's when he said, "My gut feeling is that a lot of these trucks should be in areas where there's limited access to restaurants."

"They're not going to those underserved parts of the city. They're all congregating Downtown, there all here because that's where the customers are," said Cleaveland.

And customers like Phil Casey say Espresso Subito should be able to park where it wants.

"So I'm for the little guy, you know, generally," said said Casey.

Bike messenger Cephas Gardner says the trucks won't steal loyal customers from restaurants.

"I think if they're actually those people's customers, they would go to the place whether there was a truck or not," said Gardner.

Trey Alonso bought his cup of coffee from a nearby Pete's, but thinks maybe customers should decide.

"It's like what's going to be better for the consumer?" said Alonso.

The hearing in front of the Appeals Board is over whether or not places like Harvest and Rowe have a right to object. They're initial complaint was toss out because they don't serve just coffee.

"They objected of course because a big piece of business in the morning is coffee. They were thrown out, it wasn't? yeah, it doesn't count. 'You serve food too.' It's like coffee is coffee, hello," said Cleaveland.

The Appeals Board hearing began around 5 p.m. and a vote came around 6 p.m. It looks like Espresso Subito will be allowed to move to 2nd Street, although the address is now 90 2nd Street, which is half a block down from the Harvest and Rowe restaurant. The reason is because their coffee is different than the coffee being sold at the local restaurants.


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