Sunday, June 20, 2010

No vendor in the park this summer

Madison Park’s establishment has apparently been successful in its efforts to prevent the ice cream vendor who set up shop next to the Bath House last year from returning to the park this summer. As you may recall, there was quite a bit of controversy (see “Gone (sort of) but not forgotten”), when Mr. W. Al-Abtan suddenly arrived on the scene last June with his tent, ice cream, and that very long extension cord which he used to connect his freezer to an electrical outlet in the women’s rest room. According to Madison Park Community Council President Ken Myrabo, the City has decided not to issue a vendor permit allowing Al-Abtan to operate in the Park again this summer.

Last year the Council was ultimately successful in getting the City to remove the vendor before the end of the permit period. The issue then was both safety (the Council argued that the extension cord snaking across pathways was a hazard) and the negative economic impact on neighborhood businesses. The Council complained that it had not been notified of the City’s plans to approve a park vendor, so its concerns had therefore not been taken into consideration. This year, upon hearing that the vendor had applied for a new permit, the Council acted quickly, requesting a meeting with Parks Department representatives.

In April, Charles Ng, Business Resources Manager, and Rita Hollomon, Concessions Coordinator for the Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation, attended a Council meeting to hear the concerns of the local community. Scoop du Jour owner Ed Washington told them that he believed the concessionaire had hurt his shop’s business last summer. Council member Linda Cody, in fact, had earlier reported to the Council that after an investigation of the matter she estimated that the cost to Scoop du Jour and other area businesses may have been as much as $7,000 per month in lost revenues during the time the vendor operated at the beach.

In responding to complaints last summer about the vendor, Parks spokesperson Dewey Potter had defended the department’s actions in granting a vendor permit, noting the City “encourages the development and patronage of small businesses, including those run by women and people of color.” When meeting with the Community Council, Ng, according to the minutes, reiterated the point about small businesses, but apparently didn’t emphasize the second point when responding to Washington (who, for those few who may not know him, is African-American). With regard to the “small business” issue, Terry Short, President of the Madison Park Business Association, noted that local businesses, such as Scoop du Jour, are also small companies that need customers.

Among the complaints about the vendor cited by others in attendance at the Council meeting were these: he often parked his ice cream van illegally, there was an increase in litter in the area while he was operating, and his tent blocked views of the water. It was also noted that he apparently did not use a cash register to record sales. Since the Parks Department is entitled to ten percent of the gross revenues of its concessionaires, this might have been thought to be an issue. But according to Concessions Coordinator Hollomon, the Parks Department uses an honor system with its vendors and doesn’t expect them to provide cash-register receipts.

Not surprisingly, no one at the Council meeting spoke up for the vendor. Had they been present, however, those who patronized his business last summer probably would have spoken up on the subject of convenience. Those beach goers, who presumably are mostly not residents of Madison Park, will be walking a bit farther for their ice cream, pop, and snacks this summer.

[Photo courtesy of Seattlest]


  1. that's OK, no one will be eating much ice cream this year anyway

  2. I have been misquoted in this article. Rita Hollomon, Concession Coordinator, informed me that the vendor reported an income of approximately $7,000/month. This was money that may have gone into the community businesses who sell similar refreshments. We felt that Scoop du Jour was most affected by the vendor's sales, as when there were long lines of customers at the vendor truck, the Scoop du Jour would have no customers, which was unusual and different from past summers.
    Linda Cody


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