City may force game day vendors off Melrose Avenue


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Hawkeye football fans may have to go cold turkey on game-day vendors along Melrose Avenue next season.

An Iowa City panel has suggested commercial vendors not be allowed to station themselves along the popular street on Saturdays this fall.

“There are some serious life-safety issues that haven’t been regulated in the past,” said Doug Boothroy, the director of Housing and Inspection Services.

In a memo to the City Council, Boothroy said Iowa City zoning laws do not support commercial vending along Melrose, which faces Kinnick Stadium to the south, and he recommends enforcing the law. Before, authorities didn’t crack down, he said.

Some fans and vendors decried the suggestion.

Vendor Chuck Ford, known for his “Big Ass Turkey Legs,” said he feels it isn’t fair vendors are being blamed.

“What’s offensive to me is that people are making the broadbased statements that the vendors are making the problems,” he said.

If officials decided to not allow vendors, fans would have to say goodbye to the turkey legs.

“I would be able to set up in my living room and watch the football game,” Ford said and laughed.

In addition to removing vendors, the panel proposed two other options: not changing the city’s current enforcement policies or requiring vendors to obtain special permits.

“I think it was tolerable in the past because I’m not sure that we were completely aware of the extent that it had grown over the last 10 to 15 years,” Boothroy said.

To support the argument, the memo cites several situations from the 2010 season, including issues with the Stadium Club. In that case, the Stadium Club had applied for a liquor license for a tailgating spot and was denied. One of the partners in Stadium Club, local realtor Tracy Barkalow, was later charged with bootlegging for serving liquor on the property.

Officials also noted the relocation of the Magic Bus, a popular tailgating site, in response to the Stadium Club’s attempt to open a venue on that property, and an incident in which a Gameday Iowa tent post punctured a gas pipeline.

Gameday Iowa owner Ron Christensen said his location has been on Melrose providing cold-weather gear, ponchos, and drinks for Hawekeye fans for 20 years.

“We take care of the Hawkeye fans,” he said.

The issue is set to be discussed at the April 18 City Council work session. City Councilor Susan Mims said though she hadn’t been able to read the specifics, she did not support the possibility of removing the vendors.

“It’s been there for decades,” she said. “It’s a big part of Big Ten football Saturday.”

Jean Walker, a member of the Melrose Neighborhood Association, said people in the area noted disturbances such as urination, vomiting, and disposing trash and broken bottles onto peoples’ property.

“There is no respect,” she said in an email.

In a statement to city officials, the association proposed moving the vendors into the Kinnick Stadium parking lot, which would decongest the road for emergency vehicles and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics workers.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said he wasn’t sure about the university’s involvement in the discussion.

“The university is committed to maintaining a positive game-day experience for its fans,” Moore said. “It’s far too early in the process to speculate any action the university may take.”

And while some UI students said they’re upset with the possibility, at least one said she understood.

“I feel like it wouldn’t be the same environment,” said UI junior Kaitlin Ritenour. “But again, it is their property.”

Upon hearing the news, an outpouring of feedback erupted on various social networks, including one Facebook group called “Leave the Melrose Avenue Vendors Alone.”

On Thursday night, the group had more than 120 members.

Former Hawkeye football player Julian Vandervelde was outraged upon hearing the news.

“Oh my god, I’m pissed,” he said. “That’s ridiculous, and that’s insane.”

He said the fans aren’t the only ones who appreciated the atmosphere generated by the vendors.

“As football players, we love to see it, we love to smell it,” Vandervelde said. “If you get out of the locker room early, you grab yourself a turkey leg before you go home.”


A previous version of this article failed to clarify details of the Stadium Club's liquor-license application, which was denied. The license was filed by the Stadium Club, a limited liability company, and not by local realtor Tracy Barkalow, who was a partner in the venture. The DI regrets the error.

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