Street Carts: Trying to Go Legit? Be Warned

Happy Belly cart saga could serve as an example to other street food vendors

Wednesday, Sep 2, 2009  |  Updated 3:15 PM PDT
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Street Carts: Trying to Go Legit? Be Warned

Josh Keppel

Street food has been all the rage in San Francisco including a recent street food festival.

Earlier this week, news came out regarding the end of the beloved Happy Belly cart's tenure in the park. Now, a few more details have emerged.

And like most closures, it involves money. The official word out of the Recreation and Park Department is that Happy Belly's permit was yanked for "failure to pay rent on time" and for failing to open the concession stands consistently during regular business hours.

The move could serve as a warning to restaurants and street food vendors looking to take part in a plan the department launched in July to cash in on the street food madness. Under the plan the City would issue permits for a fee to sell food legally in parks across San Francisco.

The limited hours of Happy Belly—even though concession permits required more—eventually led to a loss of revenue for the cart, and more importantly for the City, loss of revenue for the City.

But already, there's a replacement in the park: at the same time that the City nixed Happy Belly's permit, it granted a temporary one to the New York Frankfurter Company until November.

NYFC is currently operating three stands, plus a fourth on weekends (Happy Belly was allowed four carts too, but only had that one—hence the move). In other words, NYFC is obviously generating a great deal more revenue for the Park Department, with early estimates being at least double, if not triple Happy Belly's payments.

So, as Team Namu turns its focus to its restaurant and the Thursday booth at the Ferry Building, everyone lives happily ever after.

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