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City allows more food vendors on Ped Mall

BY GRACE SAVIDES | MARCH 10, 2010 7:30 AM

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Downtown and hungry on a Saturday night? Soon, there may be more options.

The Iowa City City Council is moving to allow two more street vendors to move onto the Pedestrian Mall. At present, the city allows six food stands to operate in the area.

This is good news for Mokotsi Rukundo, a University of Iowa senior and co-owner of CorNroC which vends grilled corn on the cob on Iowa Avenue.

“This is going to be a nice way to actually get the name out and to have a new set of potential customers,” said the business student.

In addition to the Ped Mall change, the city wants to increase the vendors’ fees. Last week, the City Council passed a resolution that increases the fee for ambulatory and mobile vending permits from $750 a year to $1,000. This is the first time the fee has been raised since 1988.

When Rukundo stated CorNroC in May 2009, he originally envisioned selling his food on the Ped Mall. Though he said Iowa Avenue has its good days, he is eager to peddle his handheld treat on the Ped Mall.

Street vendors in the area are required to be open during certain hours. From May 1 through Oct. 1, vendors must be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

But the ordinance in question could also change that by reducing the hours vendors are required to be out.

If the ordinance is passed, the vendors would only have to sell between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Vendors are allowed to add any other hours they desire.

Some city officials are concerned that the hours requirement in place could put a strain on vendors, given the current economic climate.

Councilor Regenia Bailey said the council was willing to make the change because it made sense and helped the businesses.

“We’ve always felt that the food vendors downtown add to the vibrancy of the plaza,” she said.

Bailey went on to say that many of the things that the council has done to the Ped Mall have been to create a pleasant atmosphere.

“We want people out and about, enjoying downtown,” she said.

Josh Wachendorf, the owner of the Walking Taco Stand, will also move from Iowa Avenue to the Pedestrian Mall. While he is in favor of the changes, he is not overly optimistic that business will be better once he moves his cart.

While vendors’ feelings on the changes were mixed, Wachendorf and Rukundo agreed the fee increase is reasonable.

“It’s definitely not too outrageous,” Wachendorf said.

Wachendorf said he’s unsure if the move will affect his business. However, he is in favor of dropping the required 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. shift, which, he said, is a time when most people have gone home and the UI holds fewer classes.

“I’m trying not to have too high of hopes,” he said. “I’m hoping it’s going to be better.”


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