The Hot Dog Controversy Shapes Up!

Oh yes indeed, I asked for hot dog controversy, and WaPo has tracked it down for me. The guys who sell the junk food to the street vendors are outraged- appalled, even!- that the city might grant some vendor licenses to people who wouldn’t buy their Utz potato chips and crappy hot dogs.

It’s not that I don’t admire the owners of WG Food Distributors- they have the most American of stories: immigrant brothers who started out with an ice cream cart and built their business into one of the biggest vendor cart food distributors in the area. I congratulate them on their success, even.

So it’s with that in mind that I wonder why the Gulajan brothers don’t just view the SmartKafe/SmartKart competition as an opportunity to innovate and raise their game a little bit. Surely Gabe Klein and his partners aren’t the only people capable of bringing something other than hot dogs to the streets of DC. Capitalist pig that I am, I find few things more frustrating than when otherwise successful businesses rely on government regulation to protect their cash cows rather than innovating to accommodate a changing market.

So bring on the chicken shwarma, On the Fly. I’ll be checking out your Farragut North SmartKafe today. If anyone is convenient to their other locations and wants to check them out, please add your comments.

3 Comments so far

  1. brittany on March 13th, 2008 @ 10:24 am

    The concern afoot, as I have been told, is this:

    People like Carlos Guardado who runs the delicious burrito cart at 17th and K feel they have been duped and left out of the loop by The Man. Apparently, they were told about a year ago that those who had an existing spot (say, a corner where I can conveniently get a delicious buritto) under the old licenses, would be allowed to keep them even if new people were added.

    Recently, however, some changes have called this in to question – including a bill which would establish something like "vendor zones" where food carts exclusively would locate – but have not announced for sure where these zones would be.

    Now, let us be very clear, I got this information from the burito purveyor himself. He has been keeping copies of the bill in a basket at his cart, asking trusted customers for advice because he himself does not fully understand what his fate may be. My understanding, therefore, is super-biased.

    It can certainly be said, though, that if the very people that this change would impact – hard-working, tastiness-providing single dads who earn a living off their carts like Carlos – do not know what is going on, the DC government is probably not doing enough to make them aware of the implications of the new bill.

    All that said, the On The Fly concept is a good one, and I am all for delicious food competition. Even if the indigenous food of my heritage – the half-smoke – gets classed out of the marketplace by organic hummus and such, that is fine by me.

  2. Tiffany Bridge (tiffany) on March 13th, 2008 @ 11:04 am

    It doesn’t help that DCRA’s website hasn’t been updated in at least a year. It appears that the plan very definitely at one time was to allow people to get permits for the sites they were currently using, and then assign new licenses by lottery into zones that would not permit more than three vendors per block. The law that this plan was introduced under expired in November and right now there is no law at all governing vendor site licenses.

    But neither DCRA nor the City Council website have any recent information about the current state of any legislation pertaining to vendor licenses.

  3. Hot Dog drama redux, plus WaPo stinks it up again. | Washington D.C. Metblogs (pingback) on March 13th, 2008 @ 3:19 pm

    […] 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. […]

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