Ali’s Food Truck under fire again in Hoboken, NJ

Back in 2009, Ali’s Food Truck was suddenly the subject of controversy, when a new restaurant around the corner (Rome Pizza) was struggling for business – and blamed Ali for their economic woes.

Well, that problem went away, as the case was ruled frivolous, and tossed out.

Fast forward to 2011 – and now MORE nearby businesses are blaming Ali for their troubles (will mention who at a later date). These businesses, which are more upscale, dinner establishments – think that Ali again is stealing customers that would otherwise patronize them.

Ali has been a staple of downtown Hoboken for over 16 years – and has a distinctly different client base than these brick & mortar restaurants. The breakfast & lunch crowd, people who want to eat on the go (commuters), or those looking to get a quick meal for under $3.00. Not the same crowd who spends $40 at lunch every day on fancy burgers and cocktails.

So now, these businesses have clamored to Hoboken City Hall about Ali, and he’s getting hassled again. About where he parks, for how long, and so on.

Do you think brick & mortar restaurants have a legitimate gripe? Or are they just jealous?

Original Complaint letter regarding Ali’s Food Truck

5/28/2009 Update:

I got my hands on the original complaint letter regarding Ali’s Food Truck. Click image below to see what it entailed…

Also – it appears that a huge wave of supporters visited Ali this afternoon and evening to sign the petition (read comments to this article).

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Court is now in session

5/28/2009:

Have you heard of the situation downtown involving the new Rome Pizzeria and the longtime Ali’s Food on Wheels lunch truck? Dozens of emails were sent to Hoboken411 inquiring about this debacle – and today, I present you with “Hoboken People’s Court!” where I state their arguments – and YOU decide!

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Case #001: Rome Pizzeria vs. Ali’s Food on Wheels

  • Plaintiff: Rome Pizzeria (20 Hudson Place, Hoboken NJ)
  • Defendant: Ali’s Food on Wheels (lives an hour outside of Hoboken – but sells his food products on River Street)

The “Charges”: The Plaintiff says the Defendant is improperly operating his food truck – and that it’s taking away customers from local brick and mortar businesses.

Plaintiff Rome Pizzeria’s Argument:

Owner John Lolicato Says: (in no particular order)

  • “Ali’s Food on Wheels (“the lunch truck”) operates too closely to competing businesses”
  • “The lunch truck parks in front of the hydrant”
  • “Other business owners are not happy with it – but are afraid to put their “name on paper” and file a formal complaint”
  • “They are in direct violation of the Peddler’s License Agreement with the city” (click to read it) [411 Note: These are the clauses he's referring to: - No person covered by this Article shall sell or attempt to sell, in accordance with the terms of this Article, except as set forth in the preceding subsection, before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. prevailing time. - No licensee shall park his vehicle or dispensing container for a period longer than the time it takes to make a sale to a customer.]
  • “They can undermine the prices of other businesses, because they don’t have the same overhead, etc.”
  • “The city knows they’re in violation – but never does anything about it.”

Defendant Ali’s Rebuttal:

  • “I’ve operated this food truck from the same spot for 18 years without a single complaint.”
  • “I always put money in the meter.”
  • “I do park in front of the hydrant – but move it once a parking spot becomes available. And don’t see an issue – because just like the Mr. Softee ice cream truck – the vehicle is always manned by a driver, and can be immediately moved in case of fire.”
  • “Because I’ve been allowed by the city of Hoboken to operate this business in the exact same manner for so many years – without summons – Hoboken has set a legal precedent – and cannot force me to move, regardless of what the Peddler’s Ordinance says.”
  • “I have hundreds or even thousands of regular customers that love my food and fair prices – and no other business, including the bars/restaurants across the street have a problem with me. In fact, they often order lunch from me too!”
  • “Rome Pizzeria should have known my truck is parked here every day when they made the business decision to open up a restaurant around the corner.”

Other story notes:

Rome Pizzeria filed a formal complaint with Frank Sasso, city Health Inspector. And as a result, since the complaint has been documented – Lolicato says that the police are forced to move the truck every day. Ali disagrees with that – and says that it’s in fact Rome Pizzeria calling the Hoboken Police on a daily basis asking that the truck get moved.

Additionally – Ali has a petition from loyal customers (hundreds of signatures as of this publication date) – that support Ali’s food truck – and want him to remain where he always has.

Ali drives an hour each way – each day – to sell his food to weary PATH commuters and area businesses, and operates approximately between the hours of 6:30am – 3:00pm.

What is your verdict?

Have you frequented Ali’s Food Truck? Does Ali’s argument make sense? Or should the city abide by the laws it enacts? Is this just the case of a struggling new business owner trying to eradicate any and all competition?

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