Hot dog stands on council agenda; Law panel to digest bid to allow pushcart vendors downtown

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 9

The Coney Island hot dog shop and other downtown eateries may have some mobile competition if an ordinance gets the council’s approval tomorrow.

At a 4 p.m. meeting today, council’s law and criminal justice committee will consider changing the Toledo Municipal Code to allow people to vend hot dogs and other food from pushcarts downtown.

Proponents of the change say it could help Toledo’s downtown seem more like that of a big city.

“When you go to Toronto or other cities, you always see these guys selling hot dogs on the street,” said Councilman Rob Ludeman. “If you want to build a downtown, you’ve got to have a good mix of businesses, and hot dogs are a part of that.”

The proposed ordinance was spurred by the efforts of Bob Thompson, a 51-year-old South Toledo resident.

Mr. Thompson owned Thompson’s Quick Print downtown for 18 years before selling the business in March. Now he seeks a new career: frankfurter mogul.

“I think it’ll add something new to downtown, another option,” Mr. Thompson said.

If the council OK’s the ordinance, Mr. Thompson’s company, to be called Mustard’s Last Stand, will set up its first vending stand in Levis Square later this month.

Mr. Thompson said he plans to eventually sell hot dogs, bratwursts, hot pretzels, and pizza by the slice.

When Mr. Thompson – who likes his dogs with ketchup, mustard, onion, and jalepeno – started investigating the possibility of a downtown hot dog cart, he discovered it was illegal.

“How can it be an All-American City without hot dogs?” he asked. He appealed to council members and administrators, and has the backing of Mayor Carty Fink|beiner for the change in the law.

Some council members fear that restaurateurs might not relish the thought of a new competitor for the limited downtown lunch market -particularly a competitor with almost no overhead, no less.

Several restaurant owners will be invited to express their views at today’s meeting.

To assuage their fears, the ordinance before the council limits vendors’ hours to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and bars them from setting up shop within 20 feet of the entrance of any restaurant or food service provider.

If the law and criminal justice committee approves the ordinance today, it could be on the agenda for tomorrow’s regular meeting.

At tomorrow’s meeting, the council will consider:

* Selling city-owned property at 526 Elm St. for $150 to the owner of a neighboring apartment building. The new owner, 526 LLC, will tear down a vacant building there and build an off-street parking lot for its tenants.

* Spending $40,000 on software for the city’s division of taxation and treasury. The software, named STAX, would allow city employees to use federal tax information to catch Toledoans who are underpaying their city income tax.

Gene Borton, city tax commissioner, has said the software could pull in millions in new revenue for the city. The council is expected to hold off on taking any action at this week’s meeting.