LOS ANGELES – Beverly Estrada, a single mother of four, is up all day working at a local grocery store, but at 5 p.m. she is just starting her second job.
âRight now I’m making mole tamales so that everything is ready, ready to go and sell tomorrow around 5 or 6 in the morning,â she said.
What would you like to know
- Out of an estimated 10,000 sidewalk food vendors working in the city of Los Angeles, only 165 have received permits, according to a recent report.
- California Retail Food Code does little to differentiate brick-and-mortar restaurants, food trucks, street carts and sidewalk vendors
- In April, engineer Richard Gomez was able to get the very first hot food sidewalk cart design approved by the LA County Department of Public Health.
- The Tamalero Cart holds 336 tamales and costs $ 7,500
For years Estrada worked intermittently as a street vendor. This last time started a year and a half ago.
âDue to COVID, they were reducing the working days, so I had to start thinking about how I was going to support my family and their income,â she said.
Going back to street vending was something Estrada dreaded. She had tried selling food on the streets before and said it cost her thousands of dollars, a year and a half and seven inspections by the health department to make a street cart that would be approved.
âIf there’s a button in the wrong place, they’ll deny you,â Estrada said. “If this is the type of refrigerator, commercial refrigerator that you need, they will turn you down.”
Then, a few months after finally getting it approved, Estrada had to sell it because she couldn’t afford to pay the fees to the county-approved commissioners, where the vendors are forced to store and prepare their food. The experience was traumatic.
âYou feel like you give up at times,â she said.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Estrada saw no other way out. Having neither the time nor the money to redo all the legal formalities, she turned to selling tamales in the back of her car, which is a violation of the health code.
âOne day the health department came and they had a dump truck, and they started going from vendor to vendor throwing their food in the dump truck, giving them a ticket and telling them to leave, âshe said.
Estrada added that she had lost over 12 hours of work and hundreds of dollars in food.
âThese are the times when you are devastated because you feel helpless, because there is no other way out,â she says.
But that may soon change because in April of this year, engineer Richard Gomez – who has been designing food carts and trucks for 20 years – was able to get the very first hot food sidewalk vending cart design approved by the Los Angeles County Public Service Department. Health.
âYou would think that with my experience I would be able to design such a simple cart very quickly, but the regulations are so strict that it took three years to get approval,â said Gomez, who works at Revolution Carts .
That’s because the California Retail Food Code makes little difference between brick-and-mortar restaurants, food trucks, street carts, and sidewalk vendors, often requiring them all to meet the same plumbing requirements. , ventilation and refrigeration. Of about 10,000 sidewalk food vendors working in the city of LA, only 165 have received permits, according to a recent report by Public Counsel and the UCLA School of Law Community Economic Development Clinic.
That’s why Gomez’s pre-approved design is a game-changer. It’s plug-and-play.
âThe cart is literally a mobile steam table,â he said. âIt runs on propane, so it doesn’t need electricity. There are different approved trolleys, but none [except for the Ice Cream Paleta cart] have been approved for sidewalk use. Then you are free to roam the city with your tamales at the right temperature. “
The Tamalero cart can hold 336 tamales. It costs $ 7,500, but funding will be provided by a local community development organization. Gomez hopes to next design Taco and Hot Dog sidewalk carts.
Estrada was one of the first to pre-order the Tamalero cart and hopes to sell it by November.
âI’m so excited that I won’t be an outcast anymore,â she said. “I think it will have a better impact on my child’s life because I will be able to provide them with a lot more.”