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Local residents and students crowd around Jin\’s Chicken, a local hot-spot for late-night munching.[/media-credit]

Issues of vending carts and sidewalk cafes, including the illegal operation of two late night carts, Jin’s Chicken and Fish and J.D.’s Express, were the center of discussion Wednesday at the Vending Oversight Committee meeting.

“No one may be open for business in any of the late night vending areas without a late night license,” said Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4. “When asked if either Jin’s or J.D.’s Express has them, the answer is no. They could be ticketed and towed anytime; (the police) wanted to — all they have to do is act.”

According to Verveer, two police officers have been asking if they have authority to tow Jin’s, mainly because its appearance is below acceptable standards. The cart also sits at its location day-in and day-out, violating the vending code and giving police officers another legal reason to tow the cart away.

Verveer said the police have also expressed grievances about late night vending issues on Broom Street between State and Gorham Streets.

“Broom Street has turned into another Frances Street, in that vendors are physically fighting over locations,” Verveer said. “The police are very concerned about it and suggest banning late night vending on Broom Street as we were forced to on Frances a few years ago.”

The city will now assign exact locations to late night vendors on both Broom and West Johnson Streets, similar to what it has done with the few remaining carts on Frances Street.

Another matter brought to the table was whether to set a maximum limit of sidewalk cafes permitted on State Street. Raising debate among members, the issue was divided between preventing too much obstruction on sidewalks and preventing new businesses from instituting a cafe.

“I’m 100 percent against the idea of limiting (outdoor) cafes,” committee member Hawk Schenkel said. “It’s unfair and uncapitalistic to stop a new bar or restaurant from establishing a cafe.”

Committee member Rosemary Lee agreed with Schenkel, adding as long as the outdoor cafes do not impede public safety, she does not want to limit the number of them.

The committee also addressed the issue of regulating sidewalk cafes and its effect on the overall design of State Street.

Warren Hansen, the city’s street vending coordinator, said the recent beautification of State Street allows everything placed on the sidewalk to be movable, including bicycle racks and benches.

Verveer said if the committee decides to not limit the number of cafes, businesses can look for other appropriate places to move the bike racks and benches to accommodate outdoor seating.

A potential negative effect of unlimited cafes is the cluttering of sidewalks, stunting the beautification effort of creating an aesthetically pleasing design, Hansen said.

The committee also scored the vending carts on a variety of merits such as appearance and quality of food, and approved vending carts in downtown Madison. For the coming year, 38 carts have been approved for operation, including the highest-ranking Kakilima, Athens Gyros and Johnson Brothers Coffee.

Seniority points, determined by years of operation, are taken into account when ranking and reviewing vending carts. According to the final rankings of vending carts scoring, Athens Gyros has no seniority points.

“Athens Gyros has a brilliant debut in second place, with no seniority points at all,” Hansen said.