The owner of a new Tex-Mex food truck in Ridge is being forced to change his menu because he’s operating too close to a Taco Bell, according to Brookhaven Town officials.
Luis Siguencia of Flanders, who owns Golden Jalapeños in Calverton and now Ridge, said he changed his menu Friday after being paid a visit from a Brookhaven Town public safety officer a day earlier. The officer was responding to a complaint filed by Taco Bell, which has a longstanding location about 1,000 feet east of the truck, which opened last week under a peddler’s license in the parking lot of Gray’s True Value Hardware.
Mr. Siguencia and Holly Wood, who owns Gray’s along with her brother Scott, said the complaint included a number of alleged violations, but the enforcement officer found that the only one the truck was actually violating pertained to its distance from the fast food chain.
Brookhaven Town Councilman Michael Loguercio, whose district includes Ridge, said he looked into the matter after receiving a phone call from the Woods. He said he later learned from the town’s law department that there is a section in the code regarding peddlers that prevents food truck owners from selling the same menu items as an existing business within 1,500 feet.
“It feels like Gray’s is farther than that from Taco Bell, but apparently it’s not,” Mr. Loguercio said. Ms. Wood said they measured the distance and found they came up short by roughly 500 feet.
Specifically, the code states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to peddle within 1,500 feet of any public market or store engaged in the business of selling the same or similar goods, wares and merchandise offered by said peddler.”
The western boundary of the Gray’s property is where the hardware store sits and is still shy of 1,500 feet.
Mr. Siguencia said he reopened Friday with a menu that no longer includes tacos, burritos or quesadillas, all items sold at Taco Bell. He can still serve fajitas and enchiladas, he said, and he’s added wraps and seafood items. He’ll also soon start serving gyros.
“I’ve cooked in French and Italian restaurants, I can do a lot of different things,” Mr. Siguencia said.
Ms. Wood said she was impressed with how quickly Mr. Siguencia adjusted.
“He was up until 4 a.m. making sure nothing on his menu conflicted with the Taco Bell menu,” she said.
Mr. Siguencia said he then emailed his new menus to Staples and picked them up just in time to open as usual Friday.
The same public safety officer stopped by the truck later that day and was satisfied when told the menu had changed, Ms. Wood said.
Mr. Siguencia, who said the issue never came up while he was applying for his peddler’s license, downplayed the impact of the menu change, saying he wants to be a good neighbor.
“I just want to do the right thing,” he said.
The changes caused some confusion for customers, who saw the Tex-Mex truck and were surprised to learn tacos, burritos and quesadillas were not available.
Derrick Olsen, a Ridge resident who has frequented the Calverton location in recent years and was excited to see the new truck open up down the street from him, said he’ll continue to support Mr. Siguencia’s truck and is willing to drive to Calverton for the tacos he counts as the best around.
“These guys are the best,” he said as he picked up dinner Friday evening. “From the simplicity of their tacos, it’s great all the way up to their desserts.”
The menu at Golden Jalapeños in Calverton, which Mr. Siguencia opened in 2015, will not change. In November, the restaurant cooked free Thanksgiving dinner to military veterans, serving more than 200 people, as it has for each of the past several years.
The new food truck is operating out of the same spot as the former Go Burger food truck, which is now located in a brick and mortar location just east of Taco Bell.
Caption: Golden Jalapeños owner Luis Siguencia takes an order from a customer Friday evening. (Credit: Grant Parpan)