The latest incident of tensions flaring between restaurants and other food businesses in Long Beach was caught on video last week, as a co-owner of The Auld Dubliner was seen breaking a nearby food truck’s signage.
In addition to damaging the food truck’s property, David Copley, co-owner of The Auld Dubliner at The Pike, is also accused of yelling racist obscenities at workers from the Hibachi Queens food truck in a confrontation that was first reported by the LA Taco. While Copley admits to breaking the signage, he denies making any racist comments.
The incident comes as the City Council is soon expected to receive a draft of a new ordinance regulating food truck operations in response to concerns from restaurant owners.
On Wednesday, Copley denied the racism allegations and said that as an Irish immigrant, he understands what it’s like to be treated like a second-class citizen and wouldn’t subject anyone to that behavior.
He did, however, admit that he let his anger get the best of him when he broke the sign.
“My intent was for the sign to fall, not break,” he said.
Video shared by the owner of the Hibachi Queens food truck, Lupe Godinez, shows Copley in a light blue shirt walking up to the truck parked in front of the T-Mobile on Pine Avenue. (While the timestamp in the video shows Saturday, Feb. 18, both Copley and Godinez confirmed the incident took place Friday, Feb. 17.)
The video has no audio, but at one point, Copley is seen moving a sign on the sidewalk closer to the truck, prompting Godinez’s worker to confront Copley. Copley then returns and kicks down the sign, breaking it.
“My biggest problem is how he handled the issue,” Godinez said. “He has a pub… a liquor license. We don’t compete with you.”
Long Beach restaurants owners have previously complained about food trucks stealing business from them.
Last year, the City Council considered creating new rules that would change how food trucks are regulated in Long Beach.
Some council members expressed wanting to protect brick-and-mortar locations—which have overhead costs like rent and utilities—from having business siphoned away by food trucks.
One of the more immediate changes council members considered was to have food trucks obtain a permit from the Long Beach’s Health Department in order to legally operate within the city.
Right now, food trucks with county health permits can sell food in Long Beach and are not subject to enforcement from city departments.
But a law firm advised the council that the new rules they were suggesting could be unconstitutional.
In Long Beach, food trucks are already not allowed to operate in areas that have been designated as parking-impacted. They’re only allowed to operate within construction zones.
Several council members said last year they’d like for the new law to reflect a compromise between restaurant and food truck owners, potentially by creating a special zone where food trucks can operate to better allow city health inspectors to enforce regulations.
A draft of an ordinance with new rules isn’t expected to be before the council until the spring, and it likely won’t be voted on until October.
Meanwhile, restaurant and food truck owners may continue to clash.
The spat between Copley and workers at the Hibachi Queens food truck began when Copley arrived to his business Friday to see them setting up in a parking space near the front of his business.
According to Godinez, they were told to move by the city from their original location along Shoreline Drive, and that the arrangement was only temporary while the Cali Vibes festival was being held.
But Copley said the truck parking in front of his business did not sit well with him on “multiple fronts.”
Copley said he approached the food truck and asked to see its permits, but the workers declined and gave him Godinez’s phone number.
Copley called Godinez and raised his concerns. Godinez said she assured him that the business had its permits and told him that if he had any issues, he should call the police because they weren’t doing anything wrong.
After the call, Copley came back out and moved the food truck’s A-frame sign, claiming it was impeding pedestrian traffic.
Godinez said her worker asked Copley why he moved the sign, and that’s when Copley came back, broke their sign and allegedly called the worker a racist slur.
Copley denied ever using a racist slur, and he said he broke the sign after moving it as a result of being called a derogatory word in Spanish multiple times by the worker.
Godinez admitted her worker called Copley a curse word in Spanish, but only after Copley kept harassing them and kicked the sign, she said.
“It was a blatant racist thing that he was doing,” Godinez said. “He didn’t fear any type of consequences, and he didn’t really care.”
Godinez said she reached out to Copley after the incident and asked him to pay for the sign and apologize to her workers for the racist slurs.
Copley, however, refused.
“I didn’t call him any derogatory names,” Copley insisted. “Having someone scream a litany of obscenities at me got my anger up.”
When Godinez’s workers returned the next day to set up, they found the parking space had been barricaded and “no parking” signage had been posted, forcing her to find another spot to temporarily park.
Copley said he and other business owners at The Pike agreed to place the barricades and signs to prevent the food trucks from parking there.
“We weren’t planning to be there for the rest of time,” Godinez said. “It sucks now that it created a hostile environment when there didn’t need to be.”