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Thursday, August 26,2010

The munchies

Should street food vendors be allowed to serve until 3 a.m. on weekends?

by Andy Balaskovitz
Clint Tarver has been slinging hot dogs for about 12 years. He is a staple outside of the Lansing City Hall building at Capitol and Michigan avenues, and for the past two years he has sold hot dogs in the Stadium District on Friday and Saturday nights.

But his contract with Downtown Lansing Inc., formerly Principal Shopping District, is for 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Most bar patrons know last call comes just shy of 2 a.m.

Tarver believes he is missing out on serious business by shutting down at midnight and is taking it up with the city. He wants to stay open until 3 a.m.

“I’m just asking for that opportunity to make some money,” Tarver said, who added that a good Friday or Saturday night nets him between $200 and $300. “There is substantial income out there after the bars close.”

Mindy Biladeau, executive director of Downtown Lansing, Inc., said she is exploring the possibility of letting vendors stay open later, which she said some have requested.

Biladeau said that some bar owners have a problem with the idea, though.

“If you add street vendors on the sidewalks in the early morning hours to the mix, it creates places for people to loiter and there is a higher potential for unwanted activity to occur,” Biladeau said via e-mail.

Others, however, apparently are OK with it.

Ruben Castillo, manager at Brannigan Brothers, said having a patio creates a bit of a buffer from their property and loiterers after 2 a.m. He said Brannigan’s has no problem with food vendors staying open past 2 a.m.

Sarah Mahoney, manager at the Nuthouse, echoed Castillo’s sentiments.

“Once 2 a.m. comes, we sort of wash our hands of it,” she said, referring to the fact that doormen make sure people clear the area and don’t cause trouble. She looks at the food vendors as competition rather than provoking street crowds.

Lansing City Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar is working on the issue with fellow Council members, she said at Monday’s meeting.

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