Ice Cream Mafia, Food Trucks & Other Shady Street Businesses

With frozen treats and beautiful summer days, driving an ice cream truck must be the safest job. Wrong! Competition and other factors can, of course, lead to some dangerous circumstances when being involved in the business of food trucks.

This was the case for two rival ice cream truck companies in New York. One of the competitors went as far as hiring a team of private detectives to keep watch on their adversary’s business. These investigators have been subject to violent threats with pipes while tailing their food trucks.

This “mafia turf war” between the cone heads sounds like the next AMC series in the making. However, it’s definitely not the first time innocent looking, small-time street businesses have taken dark turns.

Territorial Food Trucks

Life in the typical urban sprawl means vehicles with food seem to be available at the nearest curb. In fact, food trucks have been booming for the past few years. But the old churro or hot dog stand does not take kindly to the new guys.

Several upscale food trucks have either been welcomed to the community, or threatened by others. Apparently, the etiquette for the wiener cart is strict, and newbies to the trade could face a tire slashing. Not to mention other instances where brick-and-mortar restaurants called the police on these meals on wheels for invading their space and keeping customers away. Even real fights between owners of food trucks have been the case.

Although they could be one of the most unsanitary places to eat, their food permits are also riddled in bureaucracy. As a result, a sting operation led to fraud charges on said permits for a few food wagons. Never have food wars been taken this literally.

Sizzling Sausage Lawsuits

Here’s a hot case. A hot dog case to be frank.

Famous Chicago wiener company, Vienna Beef Inc., filed a lawsuit against its competitor, Red Hot Chicago, on multiple charges. Vienna believed that Red Hot had either stolen their secret recipes or was falsely claiming that their dogs were similar. The lawsuit accused the rival of false advertising, unfair competition, and trademark infringement. One thing that added to the drama is that the defendant company is owned by a grandson of one of the founders of Vienna.

A few weeks after, a judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order and believed there were no chances of Vienna succeeding on any of the charges they had placed. Although this was an early victory for Red Hot, the wiener battle of the best frankfurter is still ongoing.

Costumed Mascot Crime

Instead of villains like Dr. Doom or Green Goblin, New York’s Times Square is swarmed by Hello Kitties and princesses. Costumed mascots flock the streets, peddling money from onlookers interested in photos.

Of course, problems have arisen from more extreme methods of collecting money of pedestrians. For instance, one man was practically bullied by a trio of mascots when he wasn’t coughing up $10 for a picture. The Olaf, Cookie Monster and Minnie Mouse in question eventually earned a few harassment charges. Unfortunately, this was not just an isolated incident.

Checking out headlines on haggling mascots or conflicts from a Spiderman or Gumby are just a few clicks away on Google or YouTube. Complaints and concerns eventually led to last year’s implementation of forming specialized zones. These small squares of floor space are essentially boundary lines of where these costume wearers can be in terms of interacting with potential costumers.

Not only are these “activity zones” being established to keep them in line, but there are also “express zones” for those looking to avoid the cluttered streets altogether. Naughty entertainers who frequently ignore “activity zone” rules could get smacked with criminal charges.

Danger Around Every Business

Whether a food stand or a street performer, a lot can go wrong when you hear the bell of a Popsicle stand. Maybe even seeing Mickey Mouse peacefully waving before roughing someone up for a $20 bill can be a reasonable expectation. Hopefully, regulation and maybe some organized control can reduce the sharks in the pond, and more opportunities for new blood to thrive.

About Jarek Martinez

Born in Chicago, Illinois, a journalism major with plenty of hope for his future and career. Reporting and photography are improving every day, but writing is the passion. The drive. Avid movie watcher and media guy. Also minoring in legal studies and applying for paralegal certification. A big dog person as well.

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