Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Food Vendors Get Pissy

Mobile Food vendors are in a pissy fit over the crackdown against one of their cohort for leaving his food unattended on the street. As the NY post reported yesterday-in a story that reeked with misplaced sympathy for the poor peddler: "Street vendors be warned: Take a bathroom break, and it may be your business that gets flushed down the toilet.That's what happened to Shiraj Islam, a nut vendor for 12 years, who suddenly found himself without a livelihood. Health inspectors, cracking down on unattended vendor carts across the city, revoked his permit last week when a bathroom emergency forced him to leave his stand in lower Manhattan."

To which we say, "It's about time." Food stores and their employees-supermarkets, delis, bodegas and fruit stands-are subject to strict health standards on both their products as well as themselves. Food sold on the street-particularly fruits and vegetables-is not subject to rigorous oversight; and this is a threat to consumers.

Bathrooms in supermarkets are subject to DOH inspections and employees are monitored to insure that they wash their hands and keep clean generally. Street vendors are not subject to the same rigorous review, so that the current enforcement brouhaha is simply outrageous-designed to use a show of force to reduce cart and peddler oversight.

And yesterday's demonstration is a case in point. Once again, the Post provides the details: "Hell no, we have to go! Street vendors were fighting for their right to potty yesterday, rallying outside the city Department of Health's headquarters in Manhattan to protest a crackdown on long bathroom breaks with signs proclaiming, "We need to pee like everyone else." As the Post reported yesterday, when longtime nut vendor Shiraj Islam took a bathroom break last week, health inspectors took away his cart's permit, claiming he shouldn't have left it unattended for so long."

The city is in the throes of a severe retail crisis-with store closings and vacancies at record levels. The proliferation of peddlers in front of the tax paying retail outlets is a contributing factor to the loss of both store revenue as well as the tax revenues that the retailers fork over to the government. If you're going to do business on the street for a very small license fee, than you're going to have to follow the regulations-just as the thousands of city food retailers are forced to do.

And we're always amazed that this "Street Vendor Project" is able to generate scores of protesters in the middle of the day-could the demonstrators all have been on long bathroom breaks from their carts? But the overriding issue is health-of not only consumers, but of the small businesses that are being rocked by the Great Recession.

Ultimately the streets belong, not to peddlers, but to the folks who live in the neighborhood-and the stores that support the services that we all depend on. No one has a God given right to do business on the street, and if given permission, they must abide by the law or face the consequences.