Rhode Island resident Gregory Manko has been selling shaved ice on the seashore for 11 summers standing. By all accounts Hawaiian Desserts—the shaved ice stand he operates from a private parking lot near the beach in Westerly, Rhode Island—is not a bother to the local community. But Westerly recently imposed a ban on all street vendors except at festivals and special events. Town officials say the ban is necessary to protect public safety.
Police Chief Edward St. Clair told the Associated Press that no one had complained about Manko's business, but other vendors setting up in inappropriate areas caused traffic congestion. One can't help but wonder, then, why the law wasn't written to apply only to those vendors actually causing problems and not those unobtrusively serving the community?
Manko thinks it's because the public nuisance rationale is just a cover. He told AP that town officials want to turn the "blue-collar beach town" into the next Martha's Vineyard. Banning all street vendors is an authoritarian attempt to class up the place by fiat.
Whatever the city's true rationale for the ban, Manko now stands on the wrong side of the law. He's continued to operate his shaved-ice stand in spite of the new ordinance.
In court last week, Manko pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of violating the street vending ban. If convicted, he faces up to 30 days in jail and an $8,000 fine ($500 for each count); he's due back in court this Thursday.
Kenneth Adams, who owns the local Ocean View Motel, is also challenging the ordinance, after being cited for selling ice cream out of a truck on his own property.