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Liability issues stop downtown BBQ
WILDART BBQ1-12-31-11a
Sean Kino is shown barbecuing in December in the city parking lot next door to La Triguena Bakery and Market at Yosemite and Grant avenues in downtown Manteca. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The hottest food trend in Manteca without a doubt is on-site barbecuing.

You’ll find barbecues outside of meat markets, grocery stores, and restaurants.

They do double duty for authentic BBQ while serving as a calling card.

The barbecues also pose a liability.

It is a risk that business owners assume but it isn’t an exposure that the City of Manteca wants.

That is the reason you won’t be seeing the barbecue back in the parking lot next door to La Trigunea market and bakery anytime soon.

Two weeks ago, the city pulled the plug on the barbecue that store staff used to cook tri-tip, teriyaki chicken, Kuala pig and BBQ chicken. The reason given at the time was a need to obtain an encroachment permit from the city since the parking lot was being leased to the City of Manteca through the redevelopment agency. The BBQ had been in the parking lot since at least late 2011. The city made an enforcement move after receiving a complaint.

The City Council on June 19 thought they had the perfect solution since the lease was expiring in October. The plan was for City Manager Karen McLaughlin to find a way for the barbecue to stay in the public parking lot until then when it would become an issue with the property owner who is also the landlord for La Trigunea market and bakery.

There now are two stumbling blocks.

McLaughlin said safety is a big issue since the barbecue it is sometimes left unattended plus must be cordoned off to avoid foot and vehicle traffic. And although the owners say the barbecue they use is one that stays cool to the touch, the city is still worried that someone may come up and open the barbecue and injure themselves, and go after the city since they have the deepest pockets. The city is essentially the “tenant” for the parking lot while it is under lease.

McLaughlin conceded that private businesses would have the same issues when barbecues are on property that they have control over. The big difference, though, is the city is not being exposed to liability from a barbecue on private property.

The city allows barbecuing at various city parks using barbecues that they put in place. But those are known exposures when insurance companies issue policies. A barbecue in a city controlled parking lot is not a common practice.

McLaughlin said there is also a question as to whether the parking lot lease had been automatically extended because neither party gave notice in time. When the city secured a number of parking lot in leases with private concerns downtown so they could be used by the public, the idea was to keep the lots under lease as long as possible hence the automatic extensions.

Further complicating the matter is whether those extensions are legal contracts that have standing after the state took over the redevelopment agency earlier this year.

The parking lot lease deal was made more than 10 years ago as part of the opening of Kelley Brothers which closed earlier this year.

McLaughlin noted one option would be for the property owner to “buy out” the lease and then allow the tenant to use the parking lot.

McLaughlin said the city - if the BBQ reappears while it is still under city control - would require that it be attended and blocked off with cones or temporary fencing typically used for crowd control.