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Vendor in Jeopardy

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Bruce Gerowitz is pissed. The 50-year-old is the owner of Dave's Dogs, a cart outside of TD's Showclub East, at 5822 E. Speedway Blvd. He's open for business--selling what he touts, with dead seriousness, as the best hot dog in the world--from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. He's had the business off and on for 13 1/2 years--but his living, and the livings of the others who run or work at hundreds of Tucson roadside stands, could be in jeopardy if the Tucson City Council enacts restrictions that are being discussed. Some neighborhood groups complain these vendors are bringing problems with them into their residential areas; similar restrictions enacted a couple of years ago in Phoenix dramatically cut the number of mobile food vendors doing business. The City Council is expected to hold a public meeting on the matter soon; you can be sure Gerowitz will be there to give his two cents.

So, why did you get in the hot dog vendor business?

It was better than working for someone else.

Now, what exactly is the city trying to do to vendors such as yourself?

They're trying to limit our hours of operation to up until 11 p.m.

How much would that hurt your business?

Well, since 60-80 percent of my business comes after 11 p.m., it would put me out of business. People want to eat after going to the bar.

Why is the city trying to do this, from what you understand?

They've said there is too much criminal activity, too much noise, too much light (coming as a result of some vendors). But there are already laws on the books regulating all the stuff we're talking about. They need to enforce them. If a vendor near a residence is bringing in too much noise, he needs to keep the level down or move a little further away. (The city) also wants to keep all vendors 25 feet away from the street, but some of them can't move; there's a building there. But there are also already ... laws involving right of way, too.

Have you ever had problems?

No. There's a doorman outside all the time. If there's noise ... they're going to keep the noise level down. The guys at TD's are very good from keeping fights from happening. They have a well-trained staff.

But you're outside of TD's. What if some residential neighborhoods are truly having problems as a result of vendors?

Well, if you move underneath the airport (line of flight), don't complain about the noise. If you live on a corner, there's always going to be noise. And if there's a vendor near a house, it's the vendor's responsibility to keep quiet or move away. We, as vendors, do need to keep the noise down or move a little further away. I know that BK's (which runs several hot dog carts) built a wall to keep the noise down. Each individual case should be taken up on an individual basis. Unfortunately, (Tom) Volgy didn't win. He wanted to make a committee of vendors, citizens and City Council members to sit together and work it out when there's a problem.

How have your appeals to the City Council gone?

I have not met privately with Steve Leal or Jose Ibarra, but at the meeting on Oct. 15, they gave ... the audience the feeling and attitude that we have to do whatever they tell us, and that's about it. It's hard to believe that they're Democrats. They left no room to debate.

Have any of them been sympathetic?

Shirley Scott is definitely on our side. I met with Carol West, and after an hour with her, I still don't know where she's at. She wants me to meet with (Kathleen) Dunbar and (Fred) Ronstadt. I haven't had the time, but I would like to meet with them.

Are you worried?

Sure, I am worried. This is my livelihood. You know, Republicans and independents are supposed to be for less government, less involvement in peoples' lives. ... Democrats are supposed to be for the little guy. But I don't see any of this right now. I can't name my sources, but people from the Health Department and different food vendors have told me that the push behind this is coming from the restaurant association. The only thing I can think of is that they're funding campaign war chests. But if the restaurants wanted to give better food, better service and better prices, we wouldn't be able to compete.

That's quite an accusation. Do you have any evidence?

No, I have no concrete evidence whatsoever. But these are the kind of people (my sources) who wouldn't lie.

If the restrictions are enacted, what then?

I am out of business. You know, it's a helluva city that puts its citizens out of work. I thought the job or the mayor and City Council was to create jobs, not take jobs away.

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