Food Fight: Possible Limitation On Street Vendors In Ridgefield

Food on the go -- a Ridgefield limit?

Who hasn't visited once or twice? The hot dog cart on Ridgefield's Main Street was listed as one of the 1,000 places to go before you die. And Martha Stewart loves it. Plus, The Hot Dog Man has a unique history.

But what about Ridgefield's other roaming food services. The new ones, run by entrepeneurs. Don't they get some love? Well, it depends.

Some new vendors may find it difficult to find a place in town to sell their food and treats because of town officials.

According to the Ridgefield Health Department, there are 13 separate establishments set up as "itinerant vendors" in town. Two of them are locations for Chez Lenard. Most are ice cream trucks.

But as new vendors look for a way in, they need to go through the Board of Selectmen.

Greg Zawacki went before the Selectmen last week with an application to launch the "Zawack Shack" on Rte. 35 in the Party Depot parking lot with the owner's permission.

His application was not denied but put off, and it sparked a conversation about the possible limitation of vendors in town.

Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark asked if the establishment might create competition for nearby restaurants and suggested a policy be put in place for a limitation on the number of street vendors allowed in Ridgefield.

Kozlark added, though, that the board should be fair to both people putting in their applications for street vending and to those who pay rent to operate at an established address.

"Can we discriminate by not allowing more than one on Main Street, though?" asked First Selectman Rudy Marconi, referencing the fact that the hot dog stand cannot have exclusive rights to all of Main Street.

Competition can be fierce on the summer food circuit -- show up at the wrong beach and you can end up in a feud with rival ice cream vendors.

Selectwoman Di Masters, who has had children that operate ice cream trucks, said, "It's better when they work together. It gets nasty sometimes."

Of course, there were the complaints from nearby stores that the scent of saurkraut seeped in occasionally, Selectwoman Barbara Manners brought up.

"How do you decide if there's a limit?" Manners said.

Many complaints, Masters said, came from Ridgefielders who said ice cream vendors at parks and beaches are too plentiful.

Selectman Andy Bodner said he would like to see some policy set forth later.

Marconi said he would research the issue for a vote on April 25.

Eileen April 17, 2012 at 04:47 PM
@reality "Could you have a relaxing day at the beach if there were ice cream truck jingles constantly playing in the background? " Kids make a lot of noise too. How relaxing is that? Would you like them banned as well? Additionally, those "jingles" don't play constantly.
sebastian dangerfield April 17, 2012 at 05:21 PM
localmom Just to make sure, you would be fine if the types of restaurants that compete with carts all went out of business, leaving those storefronts vacant, and we are left with a bunch of carts . You do realize, that being competitive requires factoring in rent. If the rent were free and property taxes not paid by the bricks and mortar food peddlars, then we would have that fair competition you desire. But it will have undesirable consequences, and affects on the town if the selectmen decide that we can have unlimited carts.
Reality April 17, 2012 at 06:08 PM
"If you want pizza you will go get pizza, not a hot dog." Oh... I must remember that rule.
Eleanor Anderson April 18, 2012 at 11:41 AM
This is interesting, I wonder of the BOS being concerned with street vendors providing competition to established restaurants in town. We have numerous pizza places in town, was nobody concerned with the competition to existing pizza vendors when say Planet Pizza opened its doors? Was nobody concerned with the competition to Tazza Café when Eats on Main opened its doors? I also wonder what if these potential street vendors were to come before the BOS wanting to open their business in one of the empty stores on Main Street. Perhaps in this case the concern with the added competition to established restaurants in town would be non-existent since that vendor would now being paying rent on a store-front. The claim of concern about added competition rings a bit hollow to me. For the record if our desire is to limit the number of street-cart vendors for aesthetic purposes I am all for that. The concern about “appearances” mentioned above is one of the reasons why Ridgefield is one of the most beautiful towns in the country and the main reason why I choose to continue living here. If the BOS is motivated by maintaining the appearance of this town they have my full support.
Reality April 18, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Eleanor -- I believe the BOS has no control over what type of stores open on Main Street. No permission from the BOS is required when opening a store front. The BOS however does have control over the roaming vendor permits. Hopefully, armed with this information, you will recognize that the BOS is doing what they can, when they can.


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