New law may increase vendor competition

Hao Nguyen has been working as a vendor across from Gelman Library for 18 years, often selling his snacks and sodas seven days a week.

“The students are so nice, they don’t make me tired… that’s why I’m happy to work here,” Nguyen said this week, with a big grin across his face as a student approached to buy a hot dog.

But the landscape in which Nguyen – who emigrated from Vietnam in 1990 – is operating is beginning to change, now that D.C.’s Vending Regulation Act of 2009 has gone into effect.

The act, which was enacted in October, calls for a reworking of the old regulations and will increase the number of food options sold and the number of vendors around the city. Though many existing vendors will get to keep their locations, new competitors’ locations remain a cause for concern for some vendors.

The law allows a maximum of 350 vendors in Ward 2, and plans to remove vendors operating without a permit for a particular location.

Michael Rupert, a spokesman for DCRA, explained in a phone interview that the number of vendors in Ward 2 has remained steady since the passing of a temporary act for the regulations.

“We are doing what the public is asking us to do, which is to create regulations that will create a level playing field for all businesses that are looking to work in the District,” Rupert said.

“Before, the only product that was even able to be sold was hot dogs, that’s how limiting [the regulations put in place in 1998] were. When they revised those, it opened up the door to things you might be able to see in other types of metropolitan areas. You are literally seeing the gamut of foods,” he added.

Adel Abdelkrim, a vendor who owns a food cart at 22nd and I streets on campus, is one of the vendors excited about the initiative to incorporate new foods.

“I have an idea for different foods besides hot dogs, like falafel, because a lot of people ask for veggies. We have a lot of different customers and some of them don’t eat meat,” Abdelkrim said about the possibilities the passage of the law would open up.

While some vendors don’t oppose the competition, others fear what it means for their only source of income.

“The problem in D.C. is they don’t have enough spots for them,” Nguyen said about the permit restrictions on locations.

“I live by this spot. They take this spot and I’ll lose everything.”

“Competition is the best for everybody, I believe in competition so that the customer will benefit.”

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