Hot Dog drama redux, plus WaPo stinks it up again.

Photo courtesy of Diva Eva

Tiff commented on the hot dog drama and WaPo’s article on the matter today, and since I’d spent some of my lunchtime clenching my teeth over this article – rather than my meal – I thought I’d follow up.

The article is a mess, and fails to accurately indicate what the controversy is over, beyond changes in regulations. Brittany comments in Tiff’s posting that she got some second hand information about zones and reserved spots for existing vendors, but if that’s part of what’s in the regulation change – and it well could be – there’s no indication of it in the WaPo article.

You would reasonably expect it to be there, though. After all, the article is titled “D.C. Food Vendors Fear War Of Hot Dogs vs. Hummus.” The article talks more about wholesaler WG Food Distributors, however, and covers the real issue while completely failing to spell it out or make it the focus of the article.

But the past two years have been especially intense, as WG and others face a city aspiring to boost its vending image and competitors eager to fight to become new kids on the block.

The crux of WG’s complaint has nothing to do with image and new entrants, however, since WG as a wholesaler could give less of a crap who they sell to. At the end of the article it’s revealed there’s only three depots left to choose from in D.C., so there’s little competition. As a provider of product for vendors to resell, they don’t care who those vendors are. They’ve got some interest in that material being standard manufactured food product rather than fresh made things like hummus, given what they provide, but that isn’t really the issue.

The issue is buried in paragraph ten, and has nothing to do with the content of the carts. What WG and the other depots are fighting to maintain is a government mandated process for the vendors to follow from which they reap a lot of money. Namely, the provision of the Department of Health rules that requires a vendor to identify a food depot where preparation, storage, and cleanup happen. A food depot that is often WG Food Distributors.

A food depot that, if you make it all the way to the last third of the article, you discover often demands that anyone using their storage facility make sizable purchases from them or face a rise in their storage rents. WG admits that there’s an “unwritten rule” that people buy from them, and defends it by saying that anyone who has to go it on their own could spend up to $900 a month on “a small storage facility with hot water and enclosures necessary to meet health standards.”

Little surprise, then, that WG and the other two depot are so interested in preventing any alteration in the health standards, and doing their best to spin this – to us and their customers – as a big guy vs little guy fight. Fair enough: it’s their livelihood and they can be expected to protect it. The real question is this: Why is WaPo helping them by so poorly examining the issue?

Chicago Style Hot Dog, courtesy of Diva Eva

2 Comments so far

  1. Tiffany Bridge (tiffany) on March 13th, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

    Come on, don’t you know that all reporters are commie pinko liberal freaks who can be easily distracted by a good Big Evil Rich guy vs. Little Dude Just Scrapin’ By story?

    (Though, if that were really the case, then the story should be about these three food distributors using their oligopoly on product AND cart storage to basically intimidate sole proprietor cart vendors into buying their crap, which in turn is at least partially responsible for the fact that we have way too many hot dog vendors and not enough burrito guys.)

    And now I’m wondering what’s to stop the cart vendors from finding alternate ways of meeting the health code requirements… I mean, okay, $900 is a lot, but there’s got to be a way to split that cost with the other vendor down the block, no? And is it possible for the vendors to find ways to seal off their carts like the On the Fly people do? I mean, it sounds like the regulation is just that the carts must be cleaned properly AND stored away from rodents, not that they must be cleaned IN the storage place.

    This is going to bug me. I’m going to spend way too much time researching street vendor requirements now.

  2. The Blossoms Cometh | Washington D.C. Metblogs (pingback) on March 27th, 2008 @ 11:54 pm

    […] for lunch would be appreciated, since none of the ladies have my appreciating taste for the curbside vendors and their cuisine. Dinner’s already planned, so fortunately I don’t look like a total incompetant to our […]

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