WinCo Foods is kicking into gear after neighbors of its south Bakersfield store complained about large crowds of car and truck enthusiasts making a ruckus in the store’s parking lot on Saturday nights.
The company said Monday it will soon make physical alterations to the lot at 6801 Panama Lane, and starting Saturday, bring in additional security and tow trucks as it works with the Bakersfield Police Department to stop street racers from cruising in the area.
BPD spokesman Sgt. Brian Holcombe confirmed the department is working with WinCo to address the situation, saying, "it's something that we're working on."
Videos posted online show row after row of vehicles congregating at the store. Some are seen burning rubber and sending up clouds of smoke.
“WinCo has heard the complaints from our neighbors and shoppers. Hopefully, with help from the community and the local police, we can put an end to this practice in our parking lot on Saturday nights,” WinCo spokesman Noah Fleisher said by email Monday.
He said the activity has been going on for more than a year, and that as many as a few hundred people converge at the lot starting at about 10 p.m. Saturdays.
Changes being made to the lot include the addition of speed bumps, flexible traffic poles and concrete wheel stops, Fleisher said.
A neighbor's Facebook post from last fall rants about the weekly gatherings. It faults WinCo and the BPD for failing to stop the activity.
"I'm sick of these guys waking up my kids (we can hear this clearly from our house a mile 1/2 away) and (I'm) even more sick of the reckless disregard and disrespect for the safety of others in the parking lot of a … grocery store," reads the Oct. 24 post by Facebook user Dusty Meyers.
The video that accompanies the posting shows a large gathering of vehicles in the store parking lot at night, while shoppers walk among the cars and trucks on their way back from the store. In the air floats a thick cloud of smoke, apparently from burning rubber.
Other Facebook videos show trucks and motorcycles burning out on the asphalt and performing other stunts.
The manager of the Love Sushi restaurant across the parking lot from the WinCo, Steve Kim, said he has called the mall's management asking that something be done about the Saturday night crowds. He said police have responded in the past and successfully persuaded participating drivers to leave the shopping center.
On Monday afternoon, fresh-looking tire mark rings suggested "donuts" were done in the parking lot recently.
Shoppers interviewed outside the store expressed diverging opinions about the weekend gatherings.
"Sometimes they just race around the parking lot and skid around and make noise," said Angie Calvillo, who lives within about half a mile of the WinCo.
"I don't care for all the racing and stuff," she continued. "It's dangerous, and I don't think they should be doing it."
Benjamin Orozco, who also lives in the area, said that while he was unaware of the Saturday night gatherings at WinCo, he has seen other similar gatherings at other locations around town. He said there is the potential for these events to get out of hand, but that for the most part, he's not overly concerned.
"They're just hanging out, checking the cars out," he said.
A WinCo employee who was not authorized to comment and declined to give her name said the gatherings are a problem every Saturday night. She said store personnel call the police every time.