The street vendor question

The street vendor question

There are 34 comments on the Chicago Tribune story from Aug 21, 2008, titled The street vendor question. In it, Chicago Tribune reports that:

"We want cucumbers! We want cucumbers!" My kids wouldn't stop until I found a street vendor who would peel and slice a cucumber, pack it in a cup and sprinkle it with fresh lime juice, salt and chile powder .

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Eloteros are unsanitary

Minooka, IL

#1 Aug 21, 2008
I live in a neighborhood (Near Fullerton and Central) where there are these mobile fruit stands (as well as the ice-cream peddlers) on almost every corner. I have tried their wares in the past (the corn was tasty when I tried it), until I got to see them in their day-to-day operation. I would have no problem with them, except for a few issues:
1) Sanitation - I have on numerous occasions caught these vendors urinating in my alley, then watched as they finished their business, did not wash their hands, and moved back on to the street selling their wares. I yelled at one vendor I caught urinating behind my garage and saw him 10 minutes later cutting fruit with his hands and handing it to a kid - Yuck!

They also keep butter, mayo and other products that should be kept cold on their carts, unrefrigerated. They use their coolers to hold the corn they sell, sitting in a lukewarm stew of water for hours on end.
If any regular business that sold food kept these sanitation conditions, they would be shut down.

That's the biggest issue - there is no regulation. I've been told by my Mexican neighbors that many of these vendors are summer visitors to the country. Thus, I think it would be difficult to start a policing and licensing program for them.

2) Annoyance - They walk down the street, honking loud horns or jingling bells. I understand they need to advertise their wares, but if it's a hot day, my windows are open, and the noise can get annoying, especially when a few of them walk together. They stop in the middle of the street to sell their products, backing up traffic. They can mass together 2, 3 or 4 of these carts in front of a store, blocking access for people with strollers or wheelchairs.

Fresh fruit is nice, but you can just as easily cut an apple yourself as you could find money, leave your house, and have someone do it for you. If they want to sell fresh food, they should do what everyone else in the city has to do - meet sanitation standards and get licensed and inspected.

Chicago, IL

#2 Aug 21, 2008
the idea that we need to train and license street food vendors is noble but laughable - so, we need to "train" people from a culture where street food has been part of the fabric of everyday life for hundreds of years, while the managers at Whole Food$ can't get rid of its rat droppings in fewer than three attempts? the lack of street food culture in chicago is another one of the things that is keeping it from becoming the truly world class city its citizens like to think it is.

Utica, KY

#3 Aug 21, 2008
Another way for the corporate elitists to keep the poor in their place. What about the kids at McDonalds urinating in your lemonade or dumping cleaning products in your Wendy's chili. These are two examples I have witnessed personally!!
Eloteros are unsanitary

Minooka, IL

#8 Aug 21, 2008
Matthew -

When you witnessed those unsanitary conditions, you had recourse, right? You could have complained to authorities, had them inspected, had their license revoked, etc. etc.

For these street vendors, what recourse do you have? Tell the police, "The guy with the big white cart peed on his hands"... They'll laugh and ask which of the hundreds of lookalike guys with white carts you mean. Then they'll go find real criminals.

With a place like Wendy's and McDonalds, you can at least assume they _have_ standards, and are _attempting_ to meet them. And you have many resources available to check up on them if you think they are not living up to standards.

Culver City, CA

#9 Aug 21, 2008
It is a health issue. Plain and simple. Chicago also does not allow people to keep livestock or ride to work on oxen either. If being a world class city means allowing third world sanitation practices I will take a pass.

Bolingbrook, IL

#11 Aug 21, 2008
Some regulation and acceptance:

I agree to regulation up to the point of mandating clean hands, safe food and a bag of ice for the fixings.
Annoyance is a personal issue. If a wasp came in to your house thru the open window, who would you blame. On the sidewalk, all it takes is a simple 'excuse me' to side step or push past someone. Acceptance, mutual acceptance, is the key phrase.
As for slicing an apple yourself, sure that is always an option if you live within your house 24/7.
I have experienced street food culture in many countries, both as a resident and a tourist. I have never had an upset stomach, or worse.
If you havent done that (grab a fruit cup, or some street vendor food), you ought to try to. The constant phobic behavior will always prevent one from experiencing new things. Caution, basic sanitation and open mind is all it takes.

Chicago, IL

#12 Aug 21, 2008
Hi readers. I'm the person who wrote this little story. Thanks for the comments. But I think some of you may have missed its point.
My suggestion is to LICENSE and REGULATE the vendors. Thus, if you have an issue or see a violation, you can report it along with the license number. The reason some might need training is because they would need to know what the city of Chicago considers a violation in order to avoid fines.
I think we can all agree that in a country with balooning obesity and diabetes, eating more clean fresh fruits and vegetables would not be a bad thing.

Since: Jun 08

Chicago, IL

#13 Aug 21, 2008
New York and Washington DC have food vendors and they do fine.

I wish we had two dollar hot dogs.

United States

#14 Aug 21, 2008
Warm corn in the cob, covered in butter and crumbled cheese tastes delicious!!! Whenever I drive by a street vendor, I don't hesitate to stop and buy one. Of course, one needs to use common while I was pregnant, I would not get any where near a street vendor.
Reality Check

Chicago, IL

#15 Aug 21, 2008
During his imperial reign, Richard J. Daley was the culprit who basically banned street food vending. At the time (50's) he cited health concerns, but in truth he felt that street food vendors would make "his" city look dumpy.(He was in the midst of his "Model Cities" project, which delivered such wonderful, lasting sights as the Cabrini Green and Robert Taylor housing projects.)

So the general ban on street food vendors has stayed mainly in-place for nearly 50 years.

Now your article raises the question of no just whether or not we should permit street vendors but whether they can be monitored and regulated closely enough to be considered safe.

Gee, it sounds so simple and self-evident, doesn't it? But it's not.

The city already has a very hard time effectively regulating restaurants and food stores. Adding a sudden profusion of street food vendors to that load (even though it would be highly seasonal) would basically be out of the question when you consider that the upcoming budgets for these departments will certainly be shriveling.

Miss Monica, if you're using the mayor's remarks as guidance for what we SHOULD do you're using a very, very shaky reference line. In Shangri-La we should all have free access to healthful foods on any street corner, we should all carry our ideal body weights, and we should all be joy-joy-happy-happy. Not gonna happen, nor will the food vendors.

Westmont, IL

#16 Aug 21, 2008
I have to make a comment about this issue. I had obtained a food license at Riis Park.Paid $2000 for fees,obtained insurance,WHICH IS MANDATORY.and$300 FOR A FOOD SAFETY CLASS.The Illegal fruit and corn vendors who do not have permits,safety classes,insurance and most of all do not even have proper paperwork to be in the Country,have sold their products at Riis Park. The Park District refuses to do anything,Park security refuses to tell them to leave,and the Chicago Police refuse to citation them to get off of the streets.Now in nicer neighborhoods these laws and ordinances are enforced. So here is the message being sent to the citizens of Chicago. If you are an Illegal resident,do not pay taxes,have no proper training in food safety,no insurance in case someone gets sick,come to Riis Park.You are safe here.Do not worry,the Park,Police and City of Chicago will not and do not question what you are doing. And finally,before you make a statement of ,(well the person is just trying to make a living) Some of these vendors make up to $400 a day .How much do you make ?Forget about rules and regulations.Mayor Daleys Chicago willpick your pocket clean with taxes Red light cameras,Insane parking ticket amounts,But let a surge of Illegal operations exist and thats O.K. Maybe i should just find new ways to screw the City the way that the City Screws me.Think i am blowing this up? Go by Riis Park and see for yourself. Disgraceful.Shame on all of you.

Culver City, CA

#17 Aug 21, 2008

I think this is why I disagree.

"New York and Washington DC have food vendors and they do fine.

I wish we had two dollar hot dogs. "

Licensing these vendors will do the same for obesity as the dollar value menu at McDonalds has done.$2.00 hot dogs and corn dipped in butter and parmesan cheese arent going to help anyone.

Neither will hepatitis C, cholera, e coli, and the variety of other diseases people will get. No one will be able to find the guilty cart when one of these diseases break out. If I tell the health department I ate at Subway they can find the source. If I tell them I ate at a cart near the subway they will laugh.

These carts are a blight. Good riddance.

Westmont, IL

#18 Aug 21, 2008
Monica ,I do agree that the vendors should be properly licensed.Have insurance ,a proper and safe cart ,and comply with the health codes of the City of Chicago. But the reality is in order to obtain a health certificate through the State of Illinois,the first thing they ask for is your identification.Most of the vendors around Riis Park do not have legal documentation. If you want ,i would be more than glad to take you around and introduce you personally to the vendors and they will confirm these truths.

United States

#20 Aug 21, 2008
First there has to be a way for Daley, Todd Stroger and their property developer buddies to make a buck off of the trade, then it will be legal.

Chicago, IL

#21 Aug 21, 2008
new york can also handle their crime, public transit, street artists, musicians, and performers, public housing, night life, and public events (eg new york's downtown does not become an impasse for 2 weeks of the summer in order to celebrate overpriced processed food).

Indianapolis, IN

#22 Aug 21, 2008
Duh, legal or not, they are all over Chicago already. In almost every neighborhood, except Downtown, West and South Loop, and Streeterville, you can find food carts.

Since: Mar 08

Montgomery, AL

#23 Aug 22, 2008
Tom wrote:
Licensing these vendors will do the same for obesity as the dollar value menu at McDonalds has done.
A fruit cup is equivalent to Chicken McNuggets?

$2.00 hot dogs and corn dipped in butter and parmesan cheese arent going to help anyone.
Neither will hepatitis C, cholera, e coli, and the variety of other diseases people will get.
If you're afraid of HepC from a street vendor, then my guess is you're sufficiently OCD that you probably live in a bubble.

If you get cholera in this country you'd be so rare that your value would rise dramatically.

I hate to say this, though: you've had E Coli [not to mention salmonellosis] several times in your life already. Most people call it "stomach flu". And mostly, they give it to themselves. And unless you are in horrible health to begin with, you may barf a little, you may get the trots, and you'll probably need to rehydrate yourself for a day or two, but it's basically harmless.
These carts are a blight. Good riddance.
They are such a blight that the nations where they are a scourge are depopulating in a neo-malthusian orgy,... right?

Naperville, IL

#24 Aug 22, 2008
I Agree with the licencing idea, but until then, I think they should enforce the current regulations more strictly. My neighborhood (Roger's Park) is overrun with ad-hoc vendors who set up on parkways, in front of residential buildings, drawing crowds who litter, loiter, and sometimes get in to fights. Some don't even bother to "pack out" their garbage....they just leave it to rot next to the sidewalks. The rest tend to use any available nearby dumpster to dispose of their waste.....all at the expense of the nearest homeowner or condo association. Until some better rules of operation are established, or they decide to become better neighbors, i plan to continue to report them as soon as I see the cart wheeling down my street.

Chicago, IL

#25 Aug 22, 2008
This is what drives me nuts about the city. They will stick it to me, a lifetime city resident, with parking tickets, redlight cameras, higher taxes, and any other way they can generate revenue but they will not crack down on illegals who are walking around with these illegal vending carts. Why don't they crack down on that? Is it too much work? Not enough revenue to be generated from cracking down on that? Please Daley, stop with all these red light cameras and clean up these up these vendors but since there is no money it, it probably will never happen.
joseph sessler

Oak Park, IL

#26 Aug 22, 2008
I dont understand.No authorization to work in this country.Here illegaly.Making cash money and paying no taxes.No business license.Why even worry if its not sanitary? Its just another example of the laws not applying to Mexicans.American citizens have been dealing with thousands of illegal business for years and our government just allows more of them to come here and flaunt our laws.WRITE CITATIONS.IMPOUND THE ILLEGAL CARTS.DEPORT THE ILLEGAL ALIENS.Problem solved

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