After the owner of Rubamba was threatened with arrest Thursday afternoon, the future of the Ay! Arepa cart remains unclear.
Ernesto Garcia, owner of Rubamba, and employee Victor Lopez were approached by James Turcio, the city compliance officer, as they set up their food cart for the day, the two salesmen said. Garcia and Lopez said they were told that if they sold food, they would be arrested.
In response, Lopez and Garcia — whose food truck has served customers on York St. for the past four years — solicited signatures from passersby for a petition they hope to present to the city of New Haven. By 1 p.m., the petition had around 80 signatures.
“Rubamba serves an awesome need,” said Kendrick Kirk ’17, who did not sign the petition but is concerned about the future of the food cart. “There are not very many places that serve cheap food and are super convenient.”
A representative from the city building department served the Rubamba, Caseus and Portobello food trucks an official order Wednesday morning, demanding they vacate their locations on York St. and College St. on campus. The representative claimed the food trucks had been operating in a residential area, therefore violating the city’s food-vendor ordinances.
Turcio did not return multiple requests for comment.
Though Garcia and Lopez wasted no time launching a street protest against the vacation order, Garcia said he hopes to reach an agreement with Turcio. The two will meet Friday morning, and Garcia hopes to convince Turcio to allow the Arepa cart to stay in its current location. He added that he is willing to cooperate with the law.
“We have food, but we’re not going to sell it because he said we would be arrested if we did,” Garcia said.
Garcia said he does not know what he will do if Turcio does not acquiesce to his request.
Neither Caseus nor Portobello have heard more from the building department about the status of their food trucks, according to the owners of both trucks. But the carts did not return to their usual locations Thursday.
Instead, Caseus food truck co-owner Tom Sobocinski worked with Greg Martell, known as Chef Brody, of the Banh Mi truck in a previously planned fundraising effort for Columbus House, a city homeless shelter. Sobocinski and Martell parked the Banh Mi food truck in front of Willoughby’s on York Street, roughly two blocks away from the Banh Mi and Caseus’ trucks’ usual locations.
“No new news today,” Sobocinski said. “We did a charity event with Chef Brody and no one [from the city department] came out.”
Carlos Mendez, owner of the Portobello cart that usually parks on Broadway, did not return to his usual location Thursday. Instead, he opted to park near the Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Mendez and Sobocinski said they have not received arrest threats or updates from city officials about the state of their food trucks.
Rubamba’s brick and mortar location is located on 25 High St.