Over the past few weeks, an interesting “struggle” has been growing between Austinites on the issue of whether the Best Wurst sausage cart should have its sidewalk permit renewed to vend in front of Parkside Restauarant. The scene is the southeast corner of East 6th Street at San Jacinto, the heart of the East 6th Historic & Entertainment District.
Best Wurst has been selling yummy treats from its cart there for 17 years and has grown quite a popular customer following. The owner, Jon Notarthomas, is a hard-working Austin musician and entrepreneur. He pays $450 per year for the vending permit and transacts tens of thousands of dollars in business from his cart.
Parkside is a lovely fine-cuisine restaurant that opened in the circa-1920 building where Dan McKlusky’s steakhouse previously existed. Shawn Cirkiel, the chef, and his Austin family purchased their building, valued by TCAD at $1.6 million, and completely renovated the property when opening the restaurant a couple of years ago.
Sidewalk vending permits must be renewed every 3 years and it is now that time for Best Wurst. Parkside is opposing the renewal. There are many reasons involved but the basic one is simply “incompatibility”. This restuarant is not happy with having another food vendor directly outside of its front door. City officials are caught in the middle.
There are many opposing perspectives arising through discussions of this matter:
“Old/Iconic Austin” versus “New/Emerging Austin”.
Upscale dining versus inexpensive street food.
Property owner rights versus temporary permitted uses.
Large investments and big taxes on property+liquor+sales versus modest investments, small fees and sales tax only.
The sensibilities of Austin’s sidewalk vending permit process versus national best-practices for kiosk-style vending in public common areas.
The growing desire for East 6th to revitalize itself to make better 24/7 use of its century-old historic district presence versus maintaining its more recent four-decade reputation as “Dirty 6th” where young folks go to get shitfaced.
Phew. That’s a lot to take in right there.
What do you think about all of this?
Loads of media coverage and other resources available if you’d like to absorb further before weighing in: News story on the Austin American-Statesman’s Austin 360. TV coverage on News 8, Fox News and KXAN. Best Wurst’s website and its new Save The Wurst Facebook site with some 3,000 fans. Parkside’s website.