Popular hot dog vendor Manouchehr Nava said he is feeling extra pressure from Metropolitan Police lately to shut down by 1:30 a.m. Nava, known to most students as “Manouch,” said MPD gave him two weeks to stop selling food outside Tower Records late at night.
Although D.C. regulations prohibit food vendors to operate after 1:30 a.m. on weekends, Nava regularly operates until 3 a.m. or later, depending on business.
MPD Lieutenant Phillip Lanciano said he spoke with Nava before Thanksgiving and encouraged the vendor to try to work on GW’s campus. D.C. vending regulations do not apply to private property. He would not say if MPD gave Nava a two-week ultimatum.
Although MPD has been dealing with him in an extremely “friendly” manner lately, Nava said, he has been hassled for the past 16 years with warnings, shutdowns and fines.
“They left me alone the first few years, but when I started to get business they gave me tickets for working late at night,” Nava said.
Nava said he has paid thousands of dollars in fines for working past legal hours. While MPD usually issues him $50 tickets, Lanciano said the law permits officers to charge as much as $300. Officers decide the amount to charge, he said.
Lanciano said Nava knows he is working late nights illegally and sympathizes with the vendor.
“We have to deal with hundreds of vendors like Manouch in the D.C. area, and we try not to make their lives harder,” Lanciano said.
He said Manouch is the “eyes and ears” of 21st Street and provides students “good food” and security.
If students were unable to get food near campus late at night, Nava said, they would venture into areas with higher risks of danger.
Nava said MPD is “serious” about enforcing the law.
“This time it’s not just get a ticket and go back to work,” Nava said.
If MPD starts enforcing the law more stringently with fines and shutdowns, Nava said, his business will be in danger.
“All my business is very late at night. I can’t tell 25 people that they can’t have a hot dog because it’s too late,” Nava said.
If Nava starts to receive heavier fines and serious warnings, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs could revoke his vending license.
“It’s like driving. An officer can’t revoke your license, but they can arrest you for DUI,” Lanciano said.
Nava said MPD has gotten more serious because other vendors may be interested in working late, and the department does not want to handle numerous vendors selling outside legal hours.
“I don’t want to say anything bad about other vendors, but some are money-minded; and if they see business, they want some of it,” Nava said.
Another late-night hot dog vendor began working weekends outside Kogan Plaza on H street this semester.
Nava said he hopes to meet with University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg to discuss possibly working on campus.
“I love this campus. It’s a humble job, and I have the best customers in the whole world,” Nava said. “It’s my home.”
He said he is satisfied with his job and feels like a part of the GW community.
“I hope GW somehow rallies for support so I can continue working without problems,” Nava said.
There is overwhelming support for Nava among students.
During his time at GW, Nava has received letters of thanks from several Student Association presidents that praise his service to the University community.
While waiting in line at the stand Friday night, sophomore Leslie Azarian said the food “was the perfect end to a perfect night.”
Senior John Browse said, “Taking away Manouch would be taking away a part of GW history.”
-Kate Stepan contributed to this report.