Readers: Keep corporate cookie-cutter carts off the 16th Street Mall

Categories: Cafe Society

The Downtown Denver Partnership has been working hard to increase the mix of menu options on the 16th Street Mall, expanding hours as well as offerings. "One of the things we've been striving for for the last couple of years is to increase the quality, predictability and overall appearance and image of the vending program on the 16th Street Mall," says the DDP's John Desmond. But some old vendors don't like the new rules. "We're independent vendors who are limited in budget and resources," says Mohammed Elaemi, who runs Shondiz, a kebab stand. "Who can really do six or seven days a week as individuals? We'll wear out in a couple of months."

Says Stretch:

The Partnership is risking coming across as a bully . . . whether they want to or not. Increase the flexible hours and favor the independent operator, the little guy. There is enough corporate cookie cutter stuff already.

Responds Jonesdrug:

I like everything Desmond has to say EXCEPT that he doesn't say he will rule out corporate leases. Corporations should not be allowed to lease and then game on. Sorry Shondiz, but I wish you were open on the weekend or later so I could miss the lunch rush and downtown traffic.

What's your favorite vendor on the mall? What vendors would you like to see added to the mix?

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I really hope this dialogue builds us a street vendor food scene we Denver-ites can all be proud of and tout across America's biggest and best cities. Keeping corporate leases, and defining what qualifies as so, could create the type of capitalist environment that would only help to serve the consumer (literally in this case), and Mr. Desmond could still achieve his goals. Again, sorry Shondiz, but I too wish you were open longer especially over the weekends. Currently we call first to inquire if and where you are open before braving the trek to the 16th Street mall. 

Brian Hayashi @connectme
Brian Hayashi @connectme

As a longtime downtown resident, I remember when the Chipotle on California Street changed its restaurant hours from 8pm to 10pm. Everyone assumed that consumers would magically "know" that the hours had changed. Instead, management was baffled by the slow traffic. They ended up purchasing signs on the side of the 16th Street Shuttle, with the sole message "We're Now Open until 10pm". After about three months of seeing the signs, people finally started to get the message.  

So fast-forward to today. DDP wants to be more like a "mall" that people can rely on, so if you go to a restaurant and it is open at 4pm, you expect the restaurant to have the same hours in a week. That just makes sense, right?

One of the key differences that the DDP doesn't seem to get is that unlike my friends at Appaloosa Grill, Jason's Deli or ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro, food vendors typically start off as one- or two-person shops that work their rear ends off to make ends meet. John Desmond should spend a day in the shoes of "Biker" Jim Pittenger or Anna over at the Thai street cart so he can understand this first-hand. Anna has no executive assistant, no sous chef, no one to fall back on if she has a medical emergency. It's just her. 

Biker Jim has got a full staff now, but it was him, his wife Karen, and a couple of friends during the early days. There is no way that an entrepreneur can be forced to work all of those jobs, all of those hours, and have things work out consistently, every day. 

The DDP simply cannot have it both ways.

If DDP wants a certain kind of restaurant that has the resources and the staffing to maintain "regular office hours", then they should admit that what they really want is to be a landlord to established quick-serve restaurants concepts, and be ready to provide companies like Smashburger with a move-in allowance that gives them an incentive to stick with it long enough for consumers to become accustomed to the new arrangements.


I would also assume this must mean corporations of a certain size (presumably, the larger they are the less desirable they are, correct?) are not to be allowed as many smaller, independent operators are incorporated, thus existing as a corporation.  What measure or qualifications would be used to determine the unwanted corporation size?  Who makes the call? 

I would be interested to see the legal precedent that would allow the Downtown Partnership to legally ban corporations (of the presumed undesirable size) from leasing space on the 16th Street mall.

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