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Taxicab confessions: A third Hollister carrier spurs feuding

Hollister Taxi is one of three cab comapnies in town.

Third carrier in Hollister stirs battle of words among taxi
In October 2009, the Hollister City Council held a heated debate over the possibility of a second taxi business opening shop in town, with Yellow Cab’s proposal passing narrowly in a 3-2 vote.

If you thought that was a heated political argument, largely over open competition and whether a city of 36,000 people needed a second cab company, you hadn’t seen anything yet.

With the opening of a third Hollister taxi business in December, the competing interests have engaged in claims against one another that include such allegations as failing to obtain proper permitting, cabs neglecting to use meters as required by law, the businesses ignoring rules as approved by the city, and even obscenity-laced tirades on the streets.

Most of the tension has surrounded new cab business LTD Taxi – part of the LTD SUV Limousine Network company – opening in mid-December and operating until now without a cab permit from the city. The other two companies are Yellow Cab and the long-running Hollister Taxi.

Hollister Taxi co-owner Elizabeth Arrizon took her concerns about LTD’s lacking permit to city hall and complained to the city clerk, city manager and mayor, she said.

Her primary complaint now, she said, is the manner in which Hollister officials responded.

“None of them knew how to handle the issue, which was really surprising to me because these are the leaders of our town,” Arrizon said. “They didn’t know what to do.”

Those city leaders, along with the Hollister Police Department – which must conduct a background check for all new taxi businesses here – have noted that LTD Taxi is going through the permit process. Police spokesman Capt. David Westrick said he understood that LTD Taxi was working to get a permit, but also that it had been advised to “cease operations” until that happens.

Since that advisement, LTD has dropped the “Taxi” portion of the name off the door signs and added the limousine moniker.

Co-owner David Baraby noted that LTD – which uses a Lincoln Towncar to transport customers – for now is considered a “limousine transfer shuttle.” He said he received an OK from City Clerk Geri Johnson to continue operating that way, which includes a flat rate ($5 for anywhere in Hollister limits) and no meter, otherwise required for taxicabs.

Johnson replied saying LTD was not allowed to operate “as a taxi.”

As for not having a taxi permit at the outset, Baraby said he thought his licensing – from one and a half years as a Yellow Cab driver – was adequate.

“We weren’t aware of how it worked at first,” he said. “They told us how it worked.”

Baraby also made a point that LTD is the only business with a taxi permit in San Juan Bautista, while others pick up and drop off people in the Mission City.

The quarrel among taxi businesses has gone far beyond permitting, though.

Arrizon, reiterating a similar stance from Hollister Taxi when Yellow Cab proposed operating here, said she doesn’t believe another competing business is necessary. Competition was one of the central themes during the council’s debate more than two years ago as well.

“It’s not really necessary, I believe,” she said. “Yellow Cab and us are barely making it, barely getting fares.”

One of her big complaints about LTD is the $5 flat rate and that Hollister Taxi can’t compete. She contended Baraby’s business isn’t following the same rules as the others – such as requirements for insurance liability and regulated metering – and can charge the lower prices.

She also claimed that “several times” an LTD owner has “jumped in front” of a Hollister Taxi cab and yelled obscenities. She said LTD owners have “harassed” Hollister Taxi drivers by asking them to see proper licensing.

Baraby responded by contending that his business partner a couple weeks ago outside Whiskey Creek Saloon asked for a driver’s business license. Baraby said he arrived to the bar and his co-owner recalled the driver saying he didn’t speak English.

“I said, ‘I know that guy – he talks to me all the time,'” Baraby said.

That upset his business partner, and Baraby acknowledged it led to “a little bit of tension, a little bit of confrontation.”

Confrontation among taxi businesses also has prompted Whiskey Creek ownership to ban the cabs from parking in certain spaces outside the bar, according to the taxi businesses. Whiskey Creek owner Carol Rivers said she merely requested that they not park outside the front.

Westrick, with the police department, confirmed that a business is not allowed to dictate who parks in public parking spots.

Baraby denied the claims about lacking, proper insurance and said he is not running the business as a taxi – therefore, he said he doesn’t need a meter – while awaiting the license.

Baraby had plenty of his own complaints about the others, too.

He provided a stack of photos to the Free Lance that he believes implicate Hollister Taxi and Yellow Cab for having more operating vehicles than the city code allows. He contended Hollister Taxi drivers often don’t use meters themselves, and that he had a confrontation with a Yellow Cab driver over advertising space on the wall at Cheap Seats Pub & Grub. Monterey-based Yellow Cab owner John Cardinalli, meanwhile, could not be reached before press time to comment on this story.

For Baraby and Arrizon, though, they both agree on one thing. They each criticized unwillingness by authorities to enforce the rules. Baraby mentioned lack of enforcement for customer pickups in San Juan, where his business is permitted. Arrizon underscored the issue in Hollister, where hers is permitted.

“That’s what they’ve been saying from the beginning,” she said of city officials, “that they’re not supposed to be operating. But they still do.”