Street Vendors Protest Because They Would Rather Not Wet Themselves

Following the news earlier this week that a street food vendor in New York City had lost his permit because he left his hot nut cart unattended while he used a nearby restroom, several vendors gathered outside the City’s Dept. of Health offices yesterday in protest.

At the heart of the demonstration is a new DOH regulation that forbids food vendors from leaving their carts unattended “whenever food is maintained on the unit, as a matter of public safety, and food defense; the food must be secured and not in reach of the public.”

To clarify, the DOH regulation does allow the vendor to leave his or her cart, but only if another licensed vendor is there to keep an eye out in their absence.

This is all well and good for vendors who work busy Midtown Manhattan corners where you’ll often find 2-3 different operations going simultaneously. But for vendors working in neighborhoods with less hustle and/or bustle, this regulation poses a predicament: Hire another person to watch your cart or refrain from using the bathroom to relieve yourself or wash your hands.

“We want them to go to the bathroom and wash their hands over the course of the day,” said Dan Cass from the DOH. “Our job is to ensure that the food sold by vendors and restaurant owners and others is safe.”

However, Sean Basinski of the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project has this to say: “As far as we know, there has never been a case of a vendor’s food being contaminated while they’ve left to go to the toilet. I’m sure if some bad person wanted to poison the people of New York City, there’d be easier ways to do it, like going to a salad bar.”

As some Consumerist readers noted in the original story, this could be a good opportunity for an enterprising type willing to be hired out for short periods throughout the day by several vendors. Kind of like the seat fillers they use at the Oscars!

Street Vendors Stand Up For Bathroom Rights [Gothamist]