The hard-knock life of a New York City street food vendor, and the surprisingly complicated politics around what they do to make a (meager) living:
“For $50, just about anyone can get a license to sell food on a city sidewalk. The application process is cumbersome, but as bureaucratic chores go, it sits somewhere between the drudgery of renewing a driver’s license and the complexity of filling out a tax return.
The problems come with registering the food carts themselves, and with the plastic inspection sticker known as the mobile food vending permit, or MFVP, for which the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene charges $200, and which is usually valid for two years. But many permit holders, having put in their time slinging souvlakis and moved on to more lucrative businesses, such as driving a cab, keep renewing their permits and renting them out, often with the cart attached, on a lucrative black market.
Illicitly renting a two-year permit from its legitimate holder can cost as much as $20,000 for a cart that serves hot food and can bring in far more revenue than a simple coffee-and-doughnut cart, or as much as $30,000 for a food truck—a fully mobile kitchen. Because they’re so valuable but not legally transferable, these permits never officially change hands. Instead, brokers help permit seekers find permit holders who no longer want to man a cart. The vendor who needs a permit—and a cart—might pay a flat fee every two years, upon renewal, or work out a profit-sharing arrangement.”
For some reason now I’m craving Gray’s Papaya.