Zurik: New Orleans councilmember calls for changes to French Quarter food cart ordinance
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans food vendors say a decades-old ordinance has locked them out of a lucrative part of the city and given a monopoly to one company. Now, District C Councilman Freddie King says it’s time to reexamine that ordinance.
The ordinance was put in place by the New Orleans City Council in 1972. It says the only way to obtain a permit to be a pushcart vendor in the French Quarter is to have operated the same business continually in the French Quarter for eight or more years, prior to January 1, 1972. At the time, only Lucky Dogs hotdog carts and an ice cream vendor qualified. In more than 50 years, the ordinance hasn’t changed.
“I would love to see more people have the opportunity to have a business and make a living selling food in the French Quarter,” King said. “I’m going to check the temperature of the people in the city to see what’s their desire to people in District C. I want to talk to the residents to see how they feel before we just move without them being a part of the conversation. And talk to the business owners of the French quarter. "
Records show one of the owners of Lucky Dogs is State Senator Kirk Talbot who represents River Ridge. Talbot doesn’t live in New Orleans, but records show he owns one-third of Lucky Dogs. Talbot also sits on the board of the French Quarter Business Association, one of the groups Councilman King says he plans to take the temperature of regarding any changes to the ordinance.
Dillard University Political Analyst Doctor Robert Collins says that could mean resistance to any push for changes.
“It’s not going to be easy. Certainly, we can expect the French Quarter business owners to protect their turf. I suspect they’re going to have a particular opinion about the Lucky Dogs situation, generally speaking, they want to maintain the status quo,” Collins said.
King says along with creating more competition, changing the ordinance could help minority business owners in the city.
“I want to stress the minority piece, almost like a DBE component. I think this is a city that, far too often, the minorities, DBE’s, or black-owned businesses have been overlooked. And I want to be the change agent for that. So, [if] we open this up, if the Council as a whole decides that, listen, we need to get more participation when it comes to vendors in the French Quarter, I want to definitely make sure that the minority-owned businesses, particularly women, and black-owned businesses have a fair shake and get a fair slice of that French Quarter pie,” King said.
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Collins says more options for food in the French Quarter could also help existing businesses.
“I’m sure the general public would be interested in weighing in with their opinion. I’m sure the residents of the French Quarter and other business owners in the French Quarter would be interested in weighing in with their opinion. I mean, bringing more pushcarts into the quarter might bring more business, might bring more foot traffic, a certain type of foot traffic, and it might help other types of businesses that are already in the quarter,” Collins said.
King stresses any changes will be made carefully. He stressed the need for input and a focus on keeping the character of the French Quarter intact.
“Any neighborhood you want to preserve how that neighborhood is set up, how that neighborhood is ran. I wouldn’t want to just open the floodgates to peddlers or street cart vendors in Treme or right next door in the Marigny without first talking to those residents and those business owners that’s going to be mostly affected,” King said.
Local entrepreneurs say changes could allow them to bring even more flavor to the streets of the French Quarter. Chef Demietiek Scott, who owns Chef Scott’s Creole BBQ, says a change could help him grow his business, and allow him to give more back to the city.
“It would do tremendous. It would allow me to be able to, you know, get a brick and mortar to operate out of,” Scott said. “It would also allow me to grow my business, if I wanted to have more carts, it would allow me to operate more hours, you know, increasing revenue. I mean, which would be an increase in taxes for the city of New Orleans. And it will also be an increase in the opportunity to be able to give back. You can’t give back to your city if you ain’t got enough money to give back.”
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