Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Restaurateurs oppose changes to vendors law


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

The threat of competition during the lucrative summer months prompted many of Ketchum's restaurant owners to speak out this week against a proposed ordinance amendment that would allow off-site vendors in the city's Light Industrial district.

The Ketchum City Council last month directed city staff to suggest revisions to the ordinance. The review was triggered by a request from Apple's Bar & Grill owner Hank Minor to place a food stand on a lot next to Rocky Mountain Hardware in the LI zone.

City Planner Stefanie Webster outlined during the public hearing Monday, Aug. 1, the proposed changes:

· Allowance for off-site vendors in the city's LI zone.

· A limitation of vendor stands to 200 square feet, including awnings and tables.

· Allowance for two vendor stands per site.

· Permitting mobile vendors selling food and beverages in the city's right of way.

Currently, off-site vendors are allowed only in Tourist zones and the commercial core.

The city defines off-site vendors as those who "conduct business outside of any permanent building," including businesses in trailers, stands and booths.

"I believe it's a lose-lose situation for the city," said Dave Piwonski, co-owner of Main St. Café. "I'm not opposed to the vendors completely. I think we need a level playing field."

Piwonski suggested increasing the permit fee from $500 for 6 months to $5,000.

"Let them compete fairly with the bricks-and-mortar businesses," he said. "We're around here for 12 months. We stay open through two slack periods. It's patently unfair."

Dave Hausmann, owner of Lefty's Bar and Grill, said he is worried about the number of off-site vendors getting out of control, and the impact they would have on downtown.

"The Ketchum restaurant environment is increasingly difficult," he said. "We're paying 12 months of ... rent for downtown real estate, payroll, taxes, snow removal, health inspections. Our argument is not about stifling competition in Ketchum It's about playing by the 12-month rule."

Ketchum restaurant owners are having a difficult enough time dealing with changing demographics, he said.

Second-home owners who don't stick around all year, combined with residents who move to more affordable housing in Hailey, mean fewer people to support local businesses during all four seasons.

That leaves business owners with a couple of summer months to sustain them the rest of the year, he said.

"Having more temporary vending or more off-site vendors ... eventually that day is going to come where you can't go into business year round," he said.

Peter Prekeges of Grumpy's Burgers and Beer concurred.

"Something you might not ever hear me say is I agree 100 percent with my competitor," he said. "Something else you might not ever hear me say is I couldn't have said it better myself."

A couple of business owners who have vendor stands said they have a lot invested in their enterprises and don't want to be pushed out of business.

"(Vendor stands) are part of a vibrant street life," said Buffalo Bites' operator Ric Lum. He supports keeping restrictions on off-site vendors tough, but not prohibitive.

Several council members said that off-site vendors provide color and energy to the city's streets, but they opted not to proceed further with the revisions until there was more discussion on the issue.

The topic will be on the City Council's agenda next month.




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