Restaurant Vows to Oust JapaCurry Truck from Legal Spot Downtown

rsz_japacurry-street.jpg
John Birdsall
Despite obtaining permits to sell on the street, JapaCurry may have to find a new spot.
​Jay Hamada thought he was doing everything right, spending thousands of dollars and wading through months of confusing permit applications to get the proper licenses for his JapaCurry food truck. But this week, Hamada found out that even if you follow the letter of San Francisco's mobile vending laws, you may not be free to do business.

japacurry-jay-thumb-150x112.jpg
JapaCurry
Jay Hamada.
​When SFoodie first spoke with Hamada in early November, he was in the final stages of permitting for JapaCurry, looking forward to his premiere at Off the Grid: Fort Mason later that month. And Hamada ― a former IT worker who sold his house in Silicon Valley to come up with the capital to launch his Japanese curry and bento box truck ― told us he was applying for a permanent lunch spot somewhere downtown.

Hamada got that curbside lunch spot downtown for JapaCurry ― two, actually. One is at Mission and New Montgomery streets, where he rolled up for the first time on Jan. 5. Spot number two is at Second Street near Mission, where Hamada set up for business on Tuesday of this week. But while Hamada says owners of brick-and-mortar restaurants in the area asked to see his permit when his truck first opened for business on Mission, he wasn't quite prepared for the angry reaction he got Tuesday from Alison Rowe, owner of the Harvest and Rowe cafe at 55 Second St.

Hamada says Rowe told him she was going to block his spot on the curb in front of 75 Second St., even tough the Police Department issued a permit for the JapaCurry truck to park there and sell food on Mondays and Tuesdays. "She called the police," Hamada says. "Now she's writing a letter a talking to all the restaurant owners, saying I'm parking there more than an hour." Now, Hamada says, he may have no choice but to look for another spot to park his truck, even though the city says he has a right to be on Second. "I don't want to make trouble," he says. "If all the rest [of the restaurants] get together ― especially the owner of Harvest and Rowe, who told me she's going to block my spot ― I don't want to stay."

Harvest and Rowe
Alison Rowe.
​Rowe declined to talk to SFoodie for this story. But we did obtain a copy of a letter she wrote, dated Jan. 19 and addressed to District 6 supervisor Jane Kim and cc'd to a long list of recipients, including other members of the board, Golden Gate Restaurant Association director Kevin Westlye, and the Police Department's permits officer. In the letter, Rowe states that the JapaCurry truck "poses an immediate threat to mine and the other brick and mortar restaurants nearby," and she makes no bones about wanting it to disappear.

"I would like your help to expedite the removal of the truck from our neighborhood," Rowe writes. "The commercial parking space where Mr. Hamada parked his food truck has a one hour limit and is 20 feet from the edge of my café's footprint, which includes permitted outdoor seating just steps from Mr. Hamada's truck."

Matt Cohen, a mobile vending business consultant and organizer of S.F.'s Off the Grid events, says the situation on Second Street is precisely why the city agreed to amend its permitting rules late last year. Cohen says Hamada got his permit under the old rules, which allowed the Police Department to decide where a mobile vendor could set up for business, without having to notify restaurants in the area. Under the new regulations ― which the Supervisors passed unanimously in mid-November, the mayor signed, and is now in its final stages before taking effect ― permit authority is with the Department of Public Works, and food truck vendors are required to notify brick-and-mortars that they've applied to sell in a particular area.

"This situation is the perfect example of why the regulations needed to be changed in the first place," Cohen says. A DPW hearing is scheduled for next week, a chance for the public to weigh in on the proposed reforms. If there are no substantial changes, the new rules could go into effect as soon as Feb. 1.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association's Kevin Westlye agrees that the permitting laws needed to be changed, noting that the GGRA endorsed the mobile food vending reform measure. Westlye says he hopes that, in this interim period, when authority is being transferred from the police to the DPW, the city would hold off on issuing any new permits. "In Mr. Hamada's case," Westlye says, "we'd just want to make sure that he didn't rush to apply for his permits under the old rules, knowing they might change ."

Regina Dick-Endrizzi, director of the city's Office of Small Business, also thinks that the new rules, with their notification and public hearings of permit applications, will resolve future conflicts like these. "Part of the new rules is that we know we're going to be opening up the landscape so that the mobile food businesses pay a little more attention to where they want to go," Dick-Endrizzi says. "Maybe develop a relationship with brick-and-mortar restaurant owners even before they apply for a permit, so that if there's a sense that there's not support from surrounding businesses they'll look for a spot in other areas."

Sensible, but it won't help Jay Hamada, who's already spent thousands of dollars legally securing a space he'll probably have to abandon. And if he does decide to seek a new Mon.-Tue. spot, will he have to pay another $10,000 application fee? Besides, there's no guarantee that, even if JapaCurry does move to another part of downtown thickly populated with lunchtime eateries, the owners there won't pick up torches and pitchforks to drive Hamada out.

Update Jan. 26: JapaCurry owner submits three new downtown locations to replace spot on Second Street

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com
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37 comments
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Lone Mountain Truck Leasing
Lone Mountain Truck Leasing

I like to read this well post. Road Stoves, which was in the beat of the gourmet  aliment barter craze, as well seems to be in the beat of a beach comber of abrasion that wealthy industry-watchers accept been predicting. 

gwdezz
gwdezz

brick and mortart restaurants are required to provide restroom facilites if they provide a seating area outside their restaurants. Truck foodies line up in restaurant to use faciites after their cheap bites..It is much cheaper to make food else where and sell in the streets out of a truck...The whole thing should be outlawed. Next you will be buying nikes out of a truck parked in front of union square in front of the niked store???Have we all gone nuts and bend laws and rules to serve ourselves at the expense of the infrastrucutre. ;( sad events taking place... RESTAURANTS ARE DYING EVERyday in sf and our SOLUtion is to put them in trucks to by pass the MYRIAD CITY LAWS AND EXPENSES OF RUNNING A BUSINESSIN sf...

harvest and blows
harvest and blows

I'll never eat at Harvest and Rowe again. I had an issue a while back I tried to get resolved, and the owner was rude and confrontational with me. (I was in no way acting in a way that would warrant her behavior.) Seeing her actions listed above further justifies my decision to never step foot in that place again.

Fong
Fong

fuck alison rowe. seriously.

Dtss1
Dtss1

Really? What do you know Fong? Or do you believe everything you read the way it's presented to you? People need to do some research. Ms. Rowe and most restaurants in the area signed a petition. And I've worked downtown for 7 years, I know Ms. Rowes' vehicle and she always parked in the commercial spots. Shame on you sheep who will turn on anyone, especially a stranger of whom you know nothing about!!

Voiceofreason
Voiceofreason

You people have no idea how difficult it is to open a restaurant in SF. The hoops, the unions etc. esp downtown. Please understand that that is why he started a food truck, because it would have been much more difficult for him to open a restaurant. But not all restaurateurs start off wealthy, some borrow money from parents and some spend years planning concepts and finding investors. Even then, the life expectancy of a rest in sf is not long. Everything is a fight, and A. Rowe has fought like all other business owners in this city. She has every right to worry about every aspect of her business. If someone pitched a tent in front of your house, wouldn't it bother you? It is very difficult to maintain a business with employees attitudes, crazy customers and this gov that prints imaginary money, raising food costs and americans needing to pay more taxes. Of course Japacurry deserves a shot, but he really needs to be considerate and Harvest and Rowe should not be the only one held accountable for this situation, there are all of the other businesses that have signed a petition to have it moved. Do your research before you decide to protest. You try to pay her rent, let's see how you do.

niffyat
niffyat

I don't think anyone is saying it's easy to run a brick&mortar business in SF. My issue with A. Rowe is how she has handled this situation. Seriously, she said it was just a coincidence that she was parked in both of JapaCurry's permit spots (http://blogs.sfweekly.com/food..., but in the article I am commenting right here, she told the J. Hamada that she would block his truck. Words have meanings—she can't call it a coincidence when she previously said she would prevent him from parking there. I will not eat at H&R again, but honestly she probably wouldn't miss me as I've only been there twice and wasn't impressed by the value nor the taste. But she should be concerned that she is documented as saying she'd prevent him from operating and then she decided to play the victim in a separate article because there was backlash at her methods. People aren't dumb—she's probably going to lose some potential and regular customers who dislike her shady behavior.And also, you said the JapaCurry truck should be reasonable? The JapaCurry truck has been considerate. The owner is looking for different locations now. I feel like she needs to be considerate because if a person is in the mood for sandwiches/salads, I doubt they'd go "Oh, hey look, Japanese curry" and opt for his truck instead. She's the one who decided to block him, so now she has to deal with consequences.

Sina
Sina

Mr. Hamada has a permit and should stand his ground. The closest Japanese curry to that neighborhood is about 6-7 blocks away and has a long line. Mrs. Rowe has her niche to fill and shouldn't worry, her food is great when you are looking for a healthy organic option and I've eaten there many times. The truck won't take business from her, it will take it from Muracci's.

njudah
njudah

owner of a crappy restaurant uses bullshit to hide the fact her food sucks. typical SF!

dj duckfat
dj duckfat

iHija de ____! Mr. Hamada, you paid for that spot. I would make her buy you out. While it's nice that you don't want to make trouble, you followed the letter of the law. If she wants you out, it's gonna cost her.

dj duckfat
dj duckfat

OK. So I just read that he's moving from in front of Harvest and Rowe and won't have to pay another app fee. Good. But screw Salmon Rowe any way.

Dtss1
Dtss1

Mr. Hamada parked illegally! He caused the trouble by leaking a personal business letter... aren't you reading the same articles! What is wrong with you "no life" food activists? You're retarded and assuming and slowing down the progress of mankind... F you! You are Sad.

Laura G. Faustman
Laura G. Faustman

Alison Rowe gets all butthurt and defensive when someone gives her a two-star Yelp review, so not surprising that she takes this as a personal affront and rains on someone else's parade. I can appreciate where she's coming from, but honestly? If someone wants an $10 salad, the curry truck ain't gonna take that business.

Johnnybravo1945
Johnnybravo1945

Honestly, Alison Rowe needs to just realize that there are other things to eat besides stuff from her place. And Japanese Curry is really good. However, I can understand why she may have interpreted the truck as a threat.

Chaki Time
Chaki Time

This place isn't even THAT close to Harvest and Rowe. You have The Sentinal, Sushiritto in between them. SO LAME.

dj duckfat
dj duckfat

She said 20 feet. Was she exagerating just a little?

Bill H.
Bill H.

No, I work in the building the Tuck parks in front of... literally 20-30 feet from her door! And it clearly effects the neighboring business, how could anyone think it doesn't?

BobSF_94117
BobSF_94117

"Regina Dick-Endrizza, director of the city's Office of Small Business, also thinks that the new rules, with their notification and public hearings of permit applications, will resolve future conflicts like these. "

No, it will CREATE conflicts like this. The old rules worked fine. Sometimes the solution is to tell the whiner to mind his (or in this case, her) own business.

Kuririce
Kuririce

JapaCurry- if you can't find love in SF, come down to Sunnyvale area.... lots of love down here for lunch on the weekdays!

Sun
Sun

Methinks Ms. Rowe is afraid of some competition, even though JapaCurry and Harvest & Rowe don't provide the same type of cuisine. This is negative publicity, and judging from the other readers' comments, just the type of publicity that she doesn't need. Competition is good: it keeps people on their toes, and gives consumers choices, and keeps prices reasonable. This is not winning her any new customers, just the opposite, I'm afraid. Ms. Rowe comes across as a scared-y cat hiding behind bullying tactics. Harvest & Rowe has lost me, that's for sure.

friedchicken
friedchicken

so if someone opens a brick and mortar cafe next to Harvest and Rowe, selling something not bland and offer decent service at reasonable prices, will Allison call the cops on them too?

Alex Brant-Zawadzki
Alex Brant-Zawadzki

Hamada and Rowe should just sit down over some tasty JapaCurry and work things out

RK
RK

Harvest and Rowe sucks. I will make sure to never step foot in that place and I will instead spend my money on lunch at JapaCurry next week.

Charlie
Charlie

I find it amusing that a restauranteur such as Allison Rowe would hide behind permitting issues instead of focusing on her actual product, the food she is serving. Her food is basically of the dull, monotonous variety that you can find at the Whole Foods soup and salad bar a few blocks away (except that Whole Foods is better and has more variety). Someone should start a Twitter campaign to boycott Harvest and Rowe and put these losers out of business.

Kiel
Kiel

Too bad Harvest and Rowes' food is not as good as the stuff you can get on the truck. I want to support the brick and mortar places...but I'm not going to.. The trucks get their food out faster and is fresher. Stop being so full of yourself Rowe, your food just isn't that great. JapaCurry has my support.

SmallBusinessSupporter
SmallBusinessSupporter

I dislike Harvest and Rowe very much. Their food is bland, their service is slow, and everything is horribly overpriced. Please leave Alison, please leave.

District 6 resident
District 6 resident

Dear District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim,I would like your help to expedite the removal of Harvest and Rowe's pedestrian obstructive outdoor seating from our neighborhood just steps from Mr. Hamada's legally permitted one-hour commercial parking space.

SeanaLyn
SeanaLyn

Harvest and Rowe is just pissed because their food is horribly bland and overpriced and someone with better food at better prices is stealing their business. Instead of being petty try to fight fire with fire...make your food better and maybe people will choose your restaurant over the truck. Im sorry but even if JapaCurry moved a mile away I would still go there over Harvest and Rowe.

Brian
Brian

While I feel bad for Jay, it's a more complicated issue than the other commenters acknowledge. Opening a brick-and-mortar cafe or restaurant in SF is far more expensive and difficult than starting up a food truck - that's the prime reason so many laid-off hipsters are hopping on the bandwagon. Building tenants have more strenous DPH and building department requirements, ADA-required improvements to make, etc - and often they have to address these requirements in 100+ year old buildings. I don't think you can fault the owner of the cafe for being upset that, after making what I'm sure was a substantial investment, another food business simply appears one day at her doorstep - taking up parking for her customers and causing lines that block her store. Competition is great, I'm all for it. But brick-and-mortar business owners in a neighborhood should be given some say in whether or not food trucks are allowed in that neighborhood and where - it's only fair.

foie gras Freddy
foie gras Freddy

commenting on your last line: and they do under the new permitting law passed by the BOS. But he paid for his permits under the old law when they didn't.

He did everything that he was supposed to do and it cost him a pretty substantial amount as well. Of course she's upset. She weighed her options and took the route that she felt was best for her. Let's remember that the reason people open food trucks is to avoid paying rent, lease or mortgage on B&M.

If she wants him out, I say she pays him the amount of the permits so he can reapply under the new permitting laws without losing any money. She would protect her business and get rid of him at the same time.

blablabla
blablabla

Please explain why "it's only fair"? I am not sure you've conclusively proven that. Yes, you're correct - a brick-and-mortar business is more costly to operate and I am not sure I see many people debating that fact. If two identical new businesses open, one a food truck and one a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and both are in direct competition with pre-existing restaurant, the existing restaurant would have the right to utterly destroy one but not the other only because one invested more? I am not sure how fair that sounds to me. Especially when wealthy restaurateurs can easily open up a perfectly crafted brick-and-mortar restaurant, bolstered by savvy restaurant consultants and well-recognized interior designers, that could crush a smaller local restaurant. In reality, as the author of this article suggested, many food truck owners are investing everything they have in their food truck. Yes, it costs less. And they have less and thus more to lose. The bottom line is that in opening a restaurant, individuals take a gamble and in this particular case Ms. Rowe might have lost had she not wielded this particular power. Not surprisingly she has poor yelp reviews and, in looking at her menu, it doesn't look exciting or interesting. She likely relies on foot traffic and her outdoor seating attracting customers, which is probably why she is so upset. I live near Emeryville and the most vocal anti-food truck opponent here is another individual making sub-par mediocre food. Have food trucks in Dolores Park suffocated 18th street? I've still waited in hour long lines at Delfina. Good restaurants will survive, just like the should.

FoodMe
FoodMe

My response is this. Go open a brick and mortar restaurant and see how difficult it actually is. It costs about half a million at the least at the end of the day, months if not years waiting around on permits, plans, incompetent city workers. Open a food truck. Maybe 250k at most, boom, bam bang, done. I love food trucks but its pretty crappy to open up in front of an established business that has to jump through hoops to make a living. There should be places for food trucks to set up rather than whereever they see fit. Of course someone is going to open up in the most prime lunch areas if they can get away with it and not think twice about other business owners. Its the way SF'ers operate. Dog eat dog

Boyc
Boyc

I'ts not only about the initial investment of the bricks and mortar restaurants. They pay much more in taxes, such as property taxes, and hire more staff who pay taxes therefore contributing much more to the local economy than a food truck. This is the reason why Rowe should have a say of what is in front of her restaurant.

Andrew
Andrew

There's a very easy way for Alison Rowe and other 'disgruntled' brick and mortar operations to drive JapaCurry off of their block, MAKE BETTER FOOD. The reason people like food trucks is that it provides more variety and options, and you're not stuck eating somewhere because they're the only game in town. Business is supposed to be about competing, not monopolizing and forcing consumers to buy your product because other options are less convenient.

Christina
Christina

this chick needs to get over it. doubtful that she's selling katsu curry don in her B&M, and even more doubtful that she can put together a great lunch like jay and his crew our doing. best of luck to you JapaCurry!!!

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