Web Posted: 05/20/2009 12:00 CDT
By Valentino Lucio - Express-News
People expecting to snack on roasted corn or turkey legs at the next First Friday are in for a surprise: No vendors will be allowed to sell the fare.
The First Friday Task Force, an organization created in February to control crime and other problems at the event, demanded that Metropolitan Health District stop issuing permits for food and drink vendors at the event.
Task force members agreed that they wanted to do away with anything that would make the monthly event resemble a carnival.
Stephen Barscewski, Metro Health's sanitation services manager, said revisions to the city's code governing food preparation last May allow his agency to grant the task force's request.
Barscewski said his agency gave the vendors a sufficient grace period before notifying them that they no longer could do business at First Friday.
He said that among the biggest violations being committed is that vendors weren't providing restrooms as required under the code.
Barscewski said vendors had failed to get written permission from area businesses to operate and that First Friday continues to lack a general sponsor.
Leo Jaramillo, a longtime First Friday food vendor, called the task force's decision biased, adding that it was aimed at protecting the interest of the committee members, some of whom live and own businesses in the area.
“I felt left out,” he said. “The decision they made affects a lot of people. It hurts me because I depend on that money.”
Brad Shaw, president of the King William Neighborhood Association and a steering committee member, said the latest decision is in keeping with the task force's goal of retaining the event's original intent: promoting art.
He didn't believe the decision was biased, saying the committee had two seats for vendors and that vendors never stepped up to help clean the area after First Friday events or helped pay for infrastructure.
Shaw said the Southtown area has organized its own chamber of commerce, hoping that one day it would take ownership of the event and serve as its sponsor.
He said the Southtown Chamber of Commerce would then be the entity to maintain the integrity of First Friday.
“It's going to be a pretty nice thing,” Shaw said. “We're taking the right steps to get away from the carnival atmosphere.”