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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP

Fulton County orders abrupt shutdown of street food vendors

The Burro-Pollo street food vendor after being shut down

The El Burro Pollo street food vendor after being shut down

An enforcer with the Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness made the rounds of Poncey-Highland’s burgeoning street-food corridor today and shut down all vendors serving hot food in the middle of their lunch rush.

“We were told we could serve our food as long as we weren’t preparing it on the street,” said Leslie Santiago, who runs the weekends-only El Burro Pollo burrito stand with her husband, Hector.  “But today they told us we needed to have a license, even on private property.”

The Santiagos, who also operate a morning French toast stand, quickly moved the operation inside to their Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop across the street.

Also shut down was the Atlanta Fry Guy, one block away. The King of Pops, an ice pop push cart, stayed open.

Santiago named a supervisor at the Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness whom she was told had ordered the shutdown. Calls to the health department went unanswered, as the offices are closed on Saturday.

According to the department’s website, it is simultaneously a county agency and a district in the state public health system. Fulton is the only county that has this distinction.

183 comments Add your comment

Helen

February 19th, 2011
11:29 pm

We went down to see the FryGuy for the first time today just to find out that he had been shut down (along with the others). My first thought was the same as Janet’s, just tell the folks that the food is free but donations are gladly accepted. Some folks would take advantage but the vast majority of the folks that I saw walking around today looked like folks who would pony up some cash…I know that I would have! I’m going to make certain that if I get a chance again that I make certain that these folks get my “donation” to their cause!

FML

February 19th, 2011
11:32 pm

Also for real they need to shut down those churches. I actually had some of their BBQ once and tried to donate and it wasn’t bad and it was probably quite safe to eat. It’s an attractive nuisance though and there are trails of trash in every direction from the bums who they feed. That and they can play by the same rules as anybody else trying to improve the quality of life around them.

JayInAtlanta

February 20th, 2011
1:46 am

I’m glad the Atlanta Street Food Coalition (www.atlantastreetfood.com) exists to get groups of merchants to try to affect positive change. These kinds of issues are bound to happen in cities and urban counties as they’re just establishing a street food culture (some big cities, like Boston, don’t technically allow street food at all).

Here is an article I found quickly on what would be required to get all the appropriate licenses to sell street food in Atlanta: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091015053522AAg8Zvu. All of the requirements themselves seem reasonable.

If the process really does require that the cart can only be at two locations per day, or whatever else people said earlier, that’s too bad the requirements weren’t designed to be street-food friendly. But I can understand some growing pains. Even in major street food markets on the west coast, the trend has been kind of recent and I’m sure it’s still a struggle.

As to the folks who say they’ve only gotten food poisoning at brick-and-mortar restaurants, umm, yeah…because we have pretty much ONLY had brick-and-mortar restaurants here until about a year ago. That doesn’t change the fact that Fulton County or any other county has every right to make sure food that’s being sold in full view of residents and tourists is safe (whether it’s outdoor private property like parking lots, or true public property).

I doubt anyone commenting has any clue why this happened so suddenly, and I’d like to have an open mind that there’s a possibility they got a valid complaint. Just because, until NOW, you’ve only been able to get e-coli poisoning at a sit-down restaurant, doesn’t mean it CAN’T happen with food on the streets.

Rick Day

February 20th, 2011
2:25 am

I know Barney the health supervisor who shut down the booths. He is a fair man, and if he shut down those booths, it is because they were not in compliance.

If FCHD did not enforce health codes on all establishments equally, the resulting outbreak of food poisoning would send you all screaming for their heads.

So which is more important, selling tacos on the street or ensuring the food safety for citizens?

dmcsga

February 20th, 2011
2:39 am

TML – The State of GA is and wouldn’t surprise me if they have them do the dirty work. The last time I checked it was this Buckhead group (bunch of conservatives) that was a big part of getting the Buckhead nightlife shutdown, also the Tucker area demise was due to the conservatives that rallied against any entertainment complex coming into their neighborhood.
So I do blame them for the most part and for the majority of bad things that go on here.

dmcsga

February 20th, 2011
2:45 am

There are a lot of licensed restaurants that will jeopardize your food, your health and have done so for years. I received food poisoning from a licensed establishment that had a 95% inspection grade. Anyone from Domino’s to Olive Garden, etc. has violated. So that doesn’t make sense. Other cities can do it but I guess Atlanta is not capable, maybe it is because the education is so below average that they are not really able to make it happen.

Don’t cry about your state and city going broke when you can’t think progressively and implement innovative ways to generate revenue. Also a license only means paying the gov. their part in reality they don’t give a rats a.. about your health

TAG

February 20th, 2011
3:04 am

Barney is douche and I hope someone from 30-Deep shoots him in the face.

anon

February 20th, 2011
3:25 am

the health department does nothing really. Either a company cares about their customers or they will lose them. We all hear stories of people getting food poisoning anyways, and our initial reaction is to accept our friends argument avoid those companies. It’s very toxic for a company not to care about the quality of their product-especially in the food industry. The health department doesn’t protect the consumer, it merely seeks to seize a companies assets and when it fines a company the govt gets the money-not the victims if they even exist. In the end, the free market and common sense does more to protect the customer than the govt ever could.
Food from street vendors are probably high risk, but they can’t force a person to either buy or eat their food. If someone gets sick it is their own fault.

hgd

February 20th, 2011
4:54 am

dmcsga – the county and city are run by democrats not old conservatives.

restaurant owner

February 20th, 2011
6:48 am

many of the food vendors in this area did not have a business lic. It’s something they should have done before opening business. Not only that, i think the AJC articles detailing the vendors in 5 points with Fry Guy and other vendors opened the eyes of some inspectors and they checked to see if they had proper licenses. in any state, you must have a business license.

restaurant owner

February 20th, 2011
6:54 am

also, Health Inspectors are really protecting the general public. I know a lot of people in the restaurant business and these are not the people you want making food without some sort of checks and balances. many of these restaurants would have killed patrons to save a few pennies if not for the enforcement of important health codes. Don’t blame the health department, blame the street vendors for not permitting or doing business as required in fulton county.

banksteroflove

February 20th, 2011
7:31 am

the problem is the system we have in our society. it is not any one person’s fault. then answer is a new way of thinking. http://www.zeitgeistmovingforward.com

the watchful eye

February 20th, 2011
7:32 am

Personally, I like the fast fod vendoring. I remember getting a couple of hotdogs and then realizing there was no place to sit, went into a bank and ate there. Nothing better than eating where the money is.

pay off

February 20th, 2011
8:00 am

the competitors called the police, made some payoffs, and the vendors were shut down—it’s that easy in atlanta! Pay the right people and government cracks heads at your command.

John

February 20th, 2011
8:35 am

Citizens get attacked in neighborhoods.Walking after dark is dangerous.But let’s prosecute the true criminal element;the street food vendors.
Only in Atlanta!!

ticket2it

February 20th, 2011
8:45 am

when you demand the government to fix crime, their solution, hire more police… if you want to fix crime, bring in more JOBS !!!!

restaurant owner

February 20th, 2011
8:49 am

All these people have to do is register their business and get permitted, just like every other restaurant in this city. Private property has nothing to do with it. My restaurant is on property i own, burt it still has to be permitted. And to the idiot that mentioned lack of taxes etc for the dimise of the city, it is these veners that are part or the problem. They operate without paying a dim to the city. All those other cities you mentioned the street venders are all permitted and paying the system.

Jason

February 20th, 2011
9:00 am

what dmcsga said

Jason

February 20th, 2011
9:04 am

haha how is this the leading city of the south again? some retard “native” redneck bible beater atlanta moron chime with a bunch of crap, go ahead…

sally

February 20th, 2011
10:00 am

Something is fishy here. I do not believe that this was a result of someone eating bad food at a cart, that should result in action against that one vendor. My guess is that this an attempt to extort fees from the vendors that previously were not required. The implementation is disgusting that these businesses would be shut down mid-day instead of phasing in the licensing requirements in a orderly planned fashion. But then you have to figure who you are dealing with, a bunch of neanderthal Atlanta bureaucrats who have no respect for the common person. They can’t do much of anything that works. Remember when they shut down the party scene in town and then tried to grant themselves an exception for bars in the city owned Underground Atlanta but nobody in their right mind wants to go down to that cesspool so that plan flopped. Once again the Atlanta buffoons should pat themselves on their collective backs for a job “well done” in true Atlanta style.

Mark

February 20th, 2011
10:03 am

To repeat for all the mindless Atlanta haters: The action was taken by the Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness which, “According to the department’s website….is simultaneously a county agency and a district in the state public health system.” Fulton County is not the city of Atlanta. The state public health system is run by our state, which is called Georgia (which is dominated by Republicans).

Jay Son

February 20th, 2011
10:15 am

Restaurant owner -

You and everybody else who said something similar are missing the point. In “all the other cities” that were mentioned, there actually ARE street food vendors, which shows you that those cities either (i) don’t require a permit/license, or (ii) have a permitting and licensing system that actually works and that actually ALLOWS street vendors on terms that let these businesses be economically viable.

Our stupid government shuts people down for not having the proper licenses/permits – but it won’t issue the proper licenses/permits in the first place, or it issues them on terms that make the operation of these businesses impossible. This effectively outlaws street food vendors in our city. I realize this is fine with you, because you don’t want more competition, but people in Atlanta obviously want street food, like other cities have, and the government should enable this not fight it.

Horsetoothedjackass

February 20th, 2011
10:28 am

Atlanta wants to consider itself a “world class city”, but as long as officials in the local government, be it at the city or county level, stifle small business owners, Atlanta will never be a “world class city”. Look at places like New York, Los Angeles, Portland, OR, Boston, and Austin where street food vendors is a way of life (And we’re not just talking about “dirty water hot dogs”.). Chicago is in many ways like Atlanta in regards to street food vendors and has some very strict laws that like in Atlanta, has stifled the growth of these vendors.

In all honesty, if the Fulton County health inspectors want to do the public some service, they need to start inspecting convenience stores and those mobile lunch trucks (AKA roach coaches) that pop up at work sites.

Some of the people commenting here are showing their ignorance by trying to make this about race. We’ve all seen folks selling hot dogs, bbq, fried fish, hamburgers, etc. along the side of the road in many parts of the Metro Area. I know I would never buy something from such an establishment because you cannot be assured that proper food safety and handling techniques are being used. The same goes for the rolling taco trucks you see in some areas outside of Atlanta/Fulton County as well (although you don’t see those as often as you did a few years ago.). In these cases, these are people operating on the fringe and more than likely have no sort of license and are operating much in the same way as a kid with a lemonade stand (In some parts of the country, local health departments have shut down kids selling lemonade for health code reasons.).

There really needs to be a unified guideline for street food vendors that supersedes any current regulations. They ought to use the street food vendor regulations that are in place in cities like New York as a guideline to go off of and then tweak it as necessary to fit the situation here in Atlanta.

Goose

February 20th, 2011
10:30 am

Seriously? this sucks. Our local gov’t always ruins good things. Its like they are trying to hold Atlanta back.

sdfg

February 20th, 2011
10:34 am

That’s Government for you! Everything we do, the Government has one finger up our butt to make sure we are doing it right. License for this, Fees for that, Permit here, Registration there, Inspections… Why can’t they just leave us alone to be FREE? I am so glad the recent recession has put a damper on Government expansion due to the loss of Tax Revenue. The whole thing needs to be scaled down to one tenth the size it is now.

FML

February 20th, 2011
10:37 am

@Jay Son – seriously I don’t see how this is so hard to grasp for some people

And apparently one reason we can’t just adopt the codes from NY, SF, Austin, Portland, or any other dozens of other awesome cities is because the city is spread across two counties. Apparently getting them to collaborate or put together something workable is an impossible task.

anon

February 20th, 2011
10:49 am

Really, restaurant owner, will the Atlanta come to an end if we stopped government theft through licenses? It seems to be the case that people were creating economic growth without the government. Don’t tell me you are a Keynesian who only sees the government as the producer of jobs and growth; the let’s bury money and contract people to dig it up crowd?
You seem to be rehashing the governments position on taxes but without a real understanding why. When our country first started, the towns didn’t tax everyone or require a fee or permit for everything. Instead they took bids from the town people on who could collect the most money through voluntary contributions from the town. If a surplus was made the collector could keep it, otherwise if the collector failed to collect he was imprisoned until the difference was paid. Furthermore, our federal congress didn’t rely on the federal income tax, but instead duties on imports. Our country was able to thrive and grow fast without the government in our lives without shaking it out of their constituents.
The problem is over the centuries we have politicians and, to an extent,the courts who have taken too much freedom and liberty from the people to advance their causes. We have merely accepted it is the role of the government to provide transportation, safety, education, social welfare because we were born into such a system and many of us have never challenged those concepts. The reality is as long as there are needs there will be businesses, nonprofits, or even ourselves to meet those needs-the idea we need government is preposterous. Paying the government money is not going to help society, other than allow politicians to make a name for themselves and allow the government more power to steal both our freedom and economic prosperity.

Anna in Poncey-Highland

February 20th, 2011
11:06 am

Hang on folks – I am confident this situation is going to get rectified. I have been advised that Commissioners Eaves and Garner and Councilman Kwanza Hall already have plans in place to meet about this on Monday to work toward a quick resolution. I’d like for us to keep the pressure on (feel free to write them and let them know you support street food in Atlanta) but would also like to give them the opportunity to both fix this situation AND get legislation aligned between the County and the City to insure support of street food vending going forward.

I agree, the City has been too slow moving on important pending legislation needed to properly support street food vending. Please contact your Councilman/woman and tell them to move on this legislation NOW.

TML

February 20th, 2011
11:07 am

@dmcsga – (1) The folks in charge of state government are NOT conservatives. Sure, they make great Republicans, but they aren’t conservatives. (2) When you mention problems in Tucker, those started during a time when the state government was run by King Roy and the Libs – Democrats. (3) Liberals have been in charge of Atlanta/Fulton/DeKalb Counties for over 40 years now…how can you NOT lay this at their feet? (4) Are you opposed to people having the final say over what goes on and in their neighborhoods? Do you want them forced to accept certain establishments they don’t want, just to satisfy YOU?

Sharon

February 20th, 2011
11:09 am

So much for entrepreneurship in Atlanta….

So, once you shut down all the unique places people enjoy, using all the corrupt and trifling cops and inspectors speckled through your ranks, what will happen to the future of all the kids who fell through the cracks created by your cheating educators???

Sharon

February 20th, 2011
11:10 am

can Atlantans demand a referendum to change this, or do we need to just boot these ignoramuses out of office?

Andy

February 20th, 2011
11:29 am

All the vendors without licenses are violating the law if you don’t have a business license how do you and what name do you use to send in your sales taxes to the state each month. I bet none of you bother to get a tax # from the Ga Revenue Dept.

Sis

February 20th, 2011
11:39 am

Why should they be allowed to operate a business without paying taxes when their ‘competitors’ are forced to pay thousands in taxes. what if the neighborhood restaurants all refused to pay taxes? I love street food and want to see more of it in Atlanta but it does need to be regulated.

Cutty

February 20th, 2011
11:39 am

A lot of people need a civics lesson. While you may have a point about the permitting/licensing process, the City didn’t shut anything down. The FULTON COUNTY Health Department did. Learn about your government’s organizational structure before you post dumb comments. Don’t see any street food being sold in Smyrna, Marietta, or Norcross either. Maybe this region is just new to the idea and needs a learning curve.

They would be helped by visiting other cities to see their best practices. That would cost money, and no one on this blog wants to spend a nickel for anything. This generation wants everything for nothing, and maybe thats the problem.

Jcatl

February 20th, 2011
12:02 pm

I think I’m going to move to a more progressive, open-minded state, like Alabama.

Boywonder

February 20th, 2011
12:03 pm

Atlanta / Fulton County = Planet of the Apes

Perry

February 20th, 2011
12:05 pm

1. Laws exist to protect the public from people who sell contaminated foods just for profit, but don’t care about safety.
2. Government agencise exist to ensure that the public is safe.
3. Monies collected from permits help to offset the expenses incurred in having laws and agencies.
4. The public is not against entrepreneurs or start-up business regardless of where and how they are started.
5. I disagree with some of the approaches to removing law-breakers’ businesses.
6. The process for obtaining a business license and a food license should be simplified to attract new business to Atlanta and Georgia instead of discouraging new start-ups or expansions via the public street.
7. We need to resolve the inconsistencies by petitioning our legislators to design laws and guidelines to promote business in Atlanta/Georgia.

sdfg

February 20th, 2011
12:05 pm

We just want to be left alone. I don’t need the Government Health Dept to tell me if a vendors food has passed their “Inspection”. If I eat it and it makes me sick, I won’t eat there again. The Fulton County Health Dept is a joke. Have you seen some of the fast food restaurant reports that they score at 100? I wouldn’t eat at a lot of them. Worthless Government,

Oh Yeah

February 20th, 2011
12:55 pm

How does race come into the picture? Isn’t this about small business and government? Wow…Not surprising, such ignorant people live in the south. Love the south, but ignorance is indeed blitz.

Andre

February 20th, 2011
1:06 pm

FML,
I don’t care if he studied with the great chef’s from France or went Le Cordon Bleu. Laws are Laws, Rules are Rules. Just obey the law or deal with the consequences.

Bubba

February 20th, 2011
1:06 pm

Mark:

The vast majority of government employees are Democrats. Focus your blame where it belongs.

Bubba

February 20th, 2011
1:10 pm

Monroe:

Delta is ready when you are!

eric

February 20th, 2011
1:20 pm

why is it that comments are allowed only on these silly articles. However, when violent crime happends in ATL or a serious article that could use public comment is written, the AJC shuts down commenting on articles. Its all pretty sad.

dd

February 20th, 2011
1:20 pm

Where are tha Egyptians when you need them?

CommonSense

February 20th, 2011
1:22 pm

Are you guys crazy? You actually want unregulated food vendors selling you food that may or may not be safe? What happens if a group of high schoolers stop to get lunch and get gravely sick and noone can trace the vendor? What if the food was prepared in a ROACH infested kitchen that has not been inspected? You really want zero regulations here? I barely trust food from traditional restaurants what makes you think I want my kids eating crap from a Rolling Unlicensed Vendor? Thank GOD for common sense! Stop whining, this is a nation of laws. Either abide by them or don’t participate.

Yallsa

February 20th, 2011
1:26 pm

I FEEL FOR THESES CART OWNERS FOR ALL THE TIME AND MONEY INVESTED BUT,THERE ARE HEALTH CODES TO BE MET. AND FROM EXPERIENCE DEALING WITH FULTON COUNTY AND CITY OF ATLANTA . YOU COULD ASK THE COUTY ABOUT BEING A STREET VENDOR AND THEN ASK THE CITY AND YES 2 DIFFERENT ANSWERS . I REALLY WISH THE COUNTY COME BY AND CHECK OUT THAT NASTY FOOD CART IN BUCKHEAD . ACROSS FROM PEACHTREE METHODIST CHURCH ..

anon

February 20th, 2011
1:27 pm

the government will not stop a company with good ratings from employing someone who doesn’t wash their hands. It won’t stop a customer from contaminating a salad bar. It won’t stop a teenage fast food worker from spitting or placing other bodily fluids or chemical agents in food products for kicks or stop them from doing nasty stuff in the kitchen for youtube, it won’t stop a disgruntled employee from enacting revenge before quitting (and probably nothing will). But what they do prevent is a small person from starting up, because the government feels as entitled to their money as the mob does. We don’t need laws to keep us safe; those who sacrifice liberty for security deserves neither.
If this is so concerning then try making your own meals or bag your own lunch. You are your first line of defense. If you get sick trusting an unknown stranger selling mystery meat, then the real villain here is yourself. If you are too lazy to care about yourself then maybe getting sick will motivate you into start caring about the quality of the food you eat, instead of blindly trusting the government that everything is alright and supporting their right to extort.

baby

February 20th, 2011
1:27 pm

Atlanta, Fulton, Dekalb and this state are all complete hellholes with NO hope. If you want your child’s degree to be worth something, or even want them to be educated, don’t even think of sending them near a public school here. It’s clear the people the city and state have produced from the education system, are not forward thinkers.

Fathertime

February 20th, 2011
1:57 pm

I lived in Atlanta for many years and am so sorry for what seems to be a totally broken system there. My last home was in Tucker for 25 years, and it was a vibrant, active community. When I retired, however, the handwriting was already on the wall as the Fulton/Dekalb/Clayton/Douglas counties, and the cities there had already begun to deterioriate. Generally, it appeared a power struggle between the white English speaking people, and the non-white non-English speaking people. This did not portend good future relations, and from our blogs, I seem to have gotten out at the right time.

Again, I regret my hometown has gone to hell, but I’m now simply too old to do anything except offer my sympathy.

count_schemula

February 20th, 2011
2:17 pm

Liberals! Republicans! Seriously? Get off that simple shiz. Both parties are the problem and both will fail you with regularity. We don’t need pie in the sky definitions of what a true Conservative would do or what a Liberal would do, we just need thought leadership that works. If you skip the issue and go right to party bashing, I have NO use for you. Frame the issue as you see and see if people agree, but STAY ON POINT. When you take a complex issue and cheapen it with that Liberal/Conservative oversimplification you are just blowing so much hot air. Aren’t all issues complex or they would not be issues. Argue the issue from how you see it, don’t just blurt out some bumper sticker BS. Ideology is fine, have one if it suits you, but argue the issue from your viewpoint. Don’t use cheap labels that you probably don’t even understand.