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Owners of All Good Grill hoping to gain access to city parking lots
Just after 11:30 p.m. Friday, the work begins for the owners of the All Good Grill food stand.
Two hours later, business at a parking lot near Margarita Mama's picks up considerably as most patrons begin to exit downtown Cape Girardeau bars. Michael Wenderski, 24, and Kennith Evans, 26, visit with customers while serving hot dogs, bratwursts and steak and chicken kebabs.
"We're like dinner and a show," Wenderski said. "We try to make our customers feel welcome and include some showmanship in the way we prepare our food.
"When you go downtown you get an eclectic group," he said. "It's a big grab bag of people."
Since mid-November the two entrepreneurs have set up shop on a parking lot near Slingers Nightclub & Lounge off North Sprigg Street and another lot near Margarita Mama's on North Main Street from 11:30 p.m. until the wee hours of the morning every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. While they're enjoying the business, Wenderski and Evans would like to sell their food closer to downtown, on public parking lots at Broadway and Main Street or the parking lot that once housed the Cape Girardeau Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
However, the city doesn't allow for street vending on public parking lots. Wenderski and Evans hope to change that soon.
"Our dream of dreams would be to vend at any public parking lot with permission," Wenderski said. "But having one or two designated for this activity would be a step in the right direction."
During the city council's Dec. 7 meeting, Wenderski and Evans presented their plan. Though council members were receptive to the idea, they told the owners to research the idea further and bring back examples of how street vending works in other cities.
Since that meeting, the business owners have researched operations in Carbondale, Ill. Wenderski said he found that in Carbondale street vendors must apply to operate in a certain area, own a business license, clean up all equipment and food items by 5 a.m. and purchase business insurance or pay a bond.
They have also collected signatures from 29 bars and other businesses along Main, Spanish and Water streets. Wenderski and Evans said they have not encountered any opposition to the idea and that those businesses have embraced their idea. Since All Good Grill opens after most of the restaurants close, it doesn't compete for customers.
"The more business we can bring downtown the better," said Brandon Fish, an employee at Breakaway's Bar & Billiards.
Marcellus Jones, a manager at Buckner Brewing Co., agrees.
"It wouldn't affect our business," Jones said. "We're not opposed to it, so why not go for it?"
Wenderski and Evans hope to complete their research by the end of the week, in time for the council's meeting Monday. They believe it could take six weeks for the council to study the information.
Cape Girardeau city manager Scott Meyer said that while the city has granted in the past special event permits for use on its public parking lots, it has never granted a permanent one before.
Meyer said it's too early to tell which way the council will vote.
"Right now the council is open to a discussion about it," Meyer said. "I wouldn't say they are heavily in favor or heavily against. They're open to continuing the discussion."
Wenderski and Evans have plans if the council approves.
"During the spring and summer we'd like to expand our days of operation," Evans said. "If it's warm on a Tuesday evening but we don't make a lot of money, I'll be OK with that because we just enjoy being out there."
Cape Girardeau, MO