Food vendor debate rages on
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 00:03
The debate about the Morgantown street vendors continued Tuesday night at the Morgantown City Council meeting.
The issue first arose in a Committee of the Whole Meeting held Feb. 26 when Morgantown police Chief Ed Preston issued an assessment of the city’s sidewalk food vendors at a councilor’s request. Preston reported the sidewalk vendors contribute to pedestrian congestion on sidewalks late at night.
At the meeting, the city’s concerns seemed to have shifted from sidewalk congestion to fair business competition within the downtown area.
Ray Glymph, a 23-year old-Brooklyn, N.Y., native, came to Morgantown to pursue a degree in industrial engineering at West Virginia University. It was during his time spent studying at the University that he saw a great opportunity to thrive in what he describes as the "friendliest small business town in America."
The young entrepreneur pursued his vision and opened his taco truck on High Street five months ago. In less than a year, the truck has become a familiar sight during evenings downtown.
However, the taco truck, along with several other street vendors located on High Street, have been defending themselves against the neighboring brick-and mortar-businesses as far back as September of 2011, when the owner of Pita Pit, Bert Manning, voiced his complaints about the establishments during a City Council meeting.
Manning said he was displeased with the lack of regulation imposed on the local street vendors and did not condone how they conduct their business in front of his restaurant. Two years later, Manning stood in front of City Council once again to reiterate his concerns. Manning said he feels the street vendors have an unfair advantage and are taking away from taxpaying Morgantown businesses.
"We invested in the Morgantown community with our life savings. These gypsy food vendors can be here today and gone tomorrow," Manning said. "If one of us closes, it is a black eye on the community. If one of them closes, the streets are cleaner the next day."
Glymph seemed to view the situation through a local perspective.
"What I believe in a free business society is that anyone with a good idea and ambition should be allowed to succeed," he said. "I have purchased from local farmers and bakeries in order to keep money circulating in Morgantown."
Michael Shuman, who owns several properties in Morgantown including the Pita Pit building, also shared his views on the rising issue.
"There needs to be a limit on how many vendors are downtown. One way to do that is to make the permit a lot more expensive," he said. "If you want to do business downtown you have to be able to afford the
"They shouldn’t have the rights to open up their doors right in front of Pita Pit, Jimmy Johns and Subway. They should have some sort of distance away from another store."
This issue is still up for debate, and no official action is scheduled to take place. Students who are advocates of the taco truck can become one of the 700 people to sign their petition and keep their business running.
Those who wish to voice his or her opinion on the subject are welcome to attend the next city council meeting.
The meetings occur on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 389 Spruce Street at 7:00 p.m.