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Power of the Pretzel: Mayor says support vendor of your choice -- and let market chase others away

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 2, 2010 - Mayor Francis Slay weighed in again today on the Pretzel War on Jamieson Avenue, telling city residents to let the marketplace rule, not the city. Slay reiterated that the inspectors have too much to do to be cracking down on vendors violating the city's minor nuisance ordinances.

Here's the latest from the mayor's blog:

"When I wrote recently that enforcement of the city's minor nuisance ordinances was driven by neighborhood response, I meant it. There is too much else to do for the city's inspectors to be everywhere and all at once about everything.

"Take pretzels. Or, more accurately, take pretzel vendors operating on Jamieson Avenue, just south of I-44. Joe Kunkel, who is in his 80s, has sold Gus' pretzels on the median at Fyler for as long as I can remember. That he was in violation of a city ordinance establishing vending zones bothered no one. And so he stayed. Then, a couple of other people decided that they, too, ought to be able sell pretzels from the same street's median. And, that wasn't a problem either until their more aggressive and visible sales tactics began drawing neighborhood complaints. An alderman and a department director then had to notice the situation.

"Their proposed solution, to remove both sets of vendors, was fair in the sort of way that makes you understand why the statue of Justice is usually shown blindfolded. Nobody had complained about Mr. Kunkel, until after the new pretzel vendors found themselves in the mustard. Yet, Mr. Kunkel, who is a walking example of the concept of 'grandfathered in,' would be punished along with the newer vendors who had generated neighborhood complaints in the first place.

"I propose a different solution. I urge anyone who wants a pretzel while traveling along Jamieson (or who wants a pretzel and can find the corner of Jamieson and Fyler) to buy it from Mr. Kunkel. And only from Mr. Kunkel.

"If the neighborhood can speak, maybe the market can, too."

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