Vendor Wars Continue: Korean Truck Wins Battle with Gov’t
Arlington County to Change Policy
By Dottie Tiejun Li
The Gorees with lawyers outside couthouse, celebrating
(Arlington, VA)—Arlington County is reconsidering its policies regarding food truck vendors following the collapse of a case it had brought against the Korean fusion food truck Seoul Food. The truck will continue to roll and serve food, thanks to General District Judge Thomas J. Kelley who dismissed a case against Hyun “Anna” Shil Goree, who owns the mobile eatery with her husband J.P. Goree. Shil faced up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine for not sufficiently complying with an Arlington County law mandating that food trucks move every 60 minutes.
The case against Shil Goree ended Monday, Feb. 4, when prosecutors from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office decided not to go forward with a charge of “loitering” against her. County law currently requires food trucks to move every 60 minutes, and although Shil Goree contends she was trying to comply, she was charged with not moving her truck “far enough.” The violation is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, “meaning that Arlington treats serving customers for 61 minutes as harshly as driving drunk or assault,” as her law firm describes it.
“I’m happy this is behind us and we can focus back on making the food we love, serving our regulars and preparing to open our brick-and--mortar restaurant,” said Shil Goree in a prepared statement. “And I hope this case spurs the County to get rid of its 60-minute rule.”
That might happen, according to Jill Griffin of Arlington Economic Development Department, which oversees the relevant ordinances. “We recognize that the 60-minute time limit is quite challenging, “ she told Asian Fortune. “We’re working with Business Improvement District, property owners, food truck operators and staff to come up with a solution that works for everyone.”
Bowing to reality, prosecutors are backing off enforcement for now. Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos declared the office “will wait until the county clarifies the ordinance to enforce it.”
Arlington County Code 30-9 has been under fire from food truck owners since the County began stepped-up enforcement of the provision forbidding food trucks from vending on a public street for more than an hour in one spot. Food truck owners complained, charging it unfairly targets them in order to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants. After receiving several fines, and paying them, Shil Goree decided to fight back. She hired the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher LLP and also sought help from the Institute for Justice, an Arlington law firm which has been supporting street vendors across the country in their fight against municipal ordinances they deem unfair or restrictive.
Shil Goree’s lawyers and the Institute, along with the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington, which has been fighting such regulations in the D.C. metro area, issued a joint victory statement blasting the law as vague and open to varying interpretations. “The law does not specify how far a food truck must move, only that it must “remain stopped for . . . no longer than sixty (60) minutes.”
The statement said that on three occasions, Arlington officials gave Seoul Food three different explanations of how far their truck must move to comply with the law. Most recently, Shil [Goree] moved the truck within the 60-minute period, but Arlington police still cited her because the officer felt the truck had not moved “far enough,” the joint statement declared.
“This case highlights the absurdity of treating what amounts to a parking violation as a crime on par with assault,” said Doug Povich, Chairman of the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington. “We have had good discussions with the Arlington Economic Board and County Board of Supervisors to revise a law that just doesn’t make sense.”
In the meantime, the Seoul Food truck will continue to roll. . . and park. . . and its kimchi, tuna maki rolls with sesame leaves, donburi and bibimbap will be available to its customers.
See our story “Vendor Wars: Trucks vs DC” in the November, 2012 Asian Fortune or online at www.AsianFortune.com. Hyun “Anna” Shil Goree details her interactions with police at the Seoul Food Facebook page: (www.facebook.com/pages/Seoul-Food-DC/265956910090137?ref=ts&fref=ts)