Regulation Of The Day 226: Hot Dog Carts

Nathan Duszynski is 13 years old and lives in Holland, Michigan. His stepfather has multiple sclerosis. His mother has epilepsy. Neither is able to work.

To help out with his family’s expenses, Nathan started mowing lawns and soon saved up the $1,200 or so that he needed to buy a hot dog cart. That way he could make even more money.

The owner of a local sporting goods store was even kind enough to allow Nathan to set up shop in his store’s parking lot. But regulators shut Nathan down ten minutes after opening up shop for the first time. He had yet to sell his first hot dog. Turns out that food carts are illegal in Holland unless they’re connected to a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Seeing as many cities across the country have unaffiliated food carts and no evidence of consumer harm, there can only be one explanation for Holland’s hot dog cart ban: rent-seeking. Restaurants don’t want to deal with the competition, so they convinced the government to do their dirty work for them.

Because of this rent-seeking, Nathan and his family are now homeless.

Our friends at the Mackinac Center have spoken with the family:

“Nate and I are now in a shelter,” Lynette Johnson said. “Doug can’t stay with us because he takes prescription narcotics to deal with his pain and the shelter does not allow him with those kinds of drugs.”

She said the situation has been stressful on the family. Lynette is afraid to be away from her husband in case she has a seizure.

Nathan has still been working hard. He’s selling hot dogs at private events, which is legal. But according to a local paper, it’s still difficult:

The cart is the only solid income the family can rely on, said Lynette. But the business is in jeopardy due to the family’s financial situation…

The reason, she said, is that each event requires a new health department permit, and the cost varies between West Michigan municipalities. The last event, a private wedding reception on Friday, cost about $200 for the permit.

Coupled with food and supply cost, they barely broke even, she said.

Nathan now has a website for Nathan’s Hot Dog Hut, where you can make a donation via PayPal. Nathan writes, “If you believe in free enterprise and can help with the costs of my fight with City Hall and the losses we have sustained so far please donate what you can to help us and those others in similar situations by clicking the button below.”

Here’s hoping Nathan wins his fight. Everyone has the right to make an honest living — even if their competitors would rather they didn’t.