Food carts are everywhere, their numbers growing; Jimmy’s Fresh Food is at 72nd and Columbus, my neighbourhood. Where I grew up, the local fair had a joint called Jimmy’s Lunch. Good karma name, I guess.
It’s a workingman’s lunch spot—no seats, no tables, no roof, low prices, hot food. No one says ‘no smoking’. Two guys work this 4’x10′ trailer. It comes and goes, every day. That’s the rule, if you run a lunch trailer and if you do, be strong.
Nobody is going to tell you what these guys really make but this will give you an idea: for the right to sell on the street, the guy outside the Met Museum pays yearly $400,000, the guy at 72 and CPW sells around 15 cases of water a day and 200 hot dogs, and pays more than a $250,000 for the right to do so. These are city fees.
How can this be? Well, the Met Museum has 5 million visitors a year and Central Park has 40 million. That’s a lot of stomachs with a lot of money.
Who gets the best spots? Vendors mostly police themselves—no encroaching. If they do, something bad usually happens.
USA military veterans get a break—their fee is waived under a 20th century law, so they are valuable employees of cart owners who are not veterans. A lot of money changes hands both outside and inside those carts.