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Food vendors pleased city reconsiders ban

BY SARA LYNNE THELEN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 8, 2008

After three months of uncertainty, it appears the city’s street vendors will be allowed to continue dishing up food on the city’s sidewalks.

Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved a draft of a revision to city code last night that would allow food vendors to stay on city sidewalks as long as their carts aren’t motorized, pulled over curbs or left unattended.

Local food vendors were almost banned from the city in March when city councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D-Ward 3) attempted to revive a long-dead city ordinance from the 1940s prohibiting carts and trailers on public sidewalks.

Kunselman said he wanted to start enforcing the 1947 law because some vendors were blocking public signs and abandoning their carts overnight.

After several vendors argued against the ordinance, the council agreed to grant vending permit holders an extension while city officials reexamined the ordinance.

Kunselman said drafting a fair and enforceable policy has been difficult for city officials.

“This certainly is something that took staff more time than they thought it would,” he said. “It is contentious, with people thinking that we’re running vendors out of town, but that’s not happening by any means.”

Local vendors said they thought the new rules outlined in the new draft were a fair compromise.

“It was kind of a sigh of relief to know that it wasn’t a push to get rid of vending,” said Robert James, owner of the Top Dog lunch stand. “I’m confident that they would do what they could to still allow us to operate.”

Miriam Lindsey, owner of Nawnie’s Dog Gone Hot Dogs, said she wouldn’t mind a rule that prohibits leaving carts unattended.

“I never did anyway,” she said. “That’s an $8,000 stand out there.”

Kunselman said the council will give the ordinance a second read within the next month. Before taking effect, the council must vote to approve a third and final draft of the ordinance.

Daily Staff Reporter Trevor Calero contributed to this report.