Food vendor Steve Smith says he’s considering legal action after his trailer was towed by the City of St. John’s.
Smith, the owner of Long Dick’s Sausage Emporium, has been battling with Newfoundland Power and St. John’s city council since setting up last spring over his temporary location and over power regulations.
September saw council approve a permanent spot for Long Dick’s on New Gower Street, but trouble arose, said Smith, when he was asked to move a few spaces away to make it easier for an old building to be torn down, just before last week’s snowstorm hit.
Snowplows clearing the roads boxed in his trailer with a high ridge of snow, which then hardened into ice, said Smith.
“I’d gone back to them and said, ‘Look, I’d love to comply with you and move this temporarily. I’m trying to work with you. I don’t want to rock the boat,’” he told The Telegram. “But I said, ‘I can’t get out of here. The snow’s got me buried.’”
Smith said he had to use an axe and a steel shovel just to clear enough snow to open the trailer door, but says his requests for more time or assistance from the city were not heard.
A representative from public works told him the city had to treat his trailer as it would a vehicle — which it isn’t, said Smith.
“I lease the spot from the city. Sure, I’m operating there, but the city has deliberately blocked me in, the plows. I said, you’re going to have to come clear around me, it’s as simple as that. I can’t get out of there.”
Sometime Wednesday night, Long Dick’s was towed.
“He contacts me this morning and tells me that (St. John’s director of building and property management) Dave Blackmore went ahead and told him to tow the God damn thing because they have the authority to do it by the contract that I’m under,” said Smith, who added he’s furious because his equipment inside wasn’t secured to be moved.
“My commercial stove, the commercial barbecue, the coolers, the refrigerator, the freezers — all that had to be strapped down inside if it was going to be pulled anywhere that it may have to go up a hill.”
Smith called it an “abuse of power” by the city and said the city’s getting back at him for speaking to the media over his earlier bureaucratic battles in getting open for business. He was hoping to reopen this weekend, but now he’s not sure if he’ll be able to reopen again at all.
“I borrowed money to install this power system. I’m already in it up to my neck,” he said, adding that he has consulted with a law firm over the ongoing conflict with the city.
The city made him pay for the entire year’s lease up front as well as install an elaborate power setup, he said, which was difficult to do with the move from Duckworth and setup on New Gower.
“I don’t know how to fight this anymore, I really don’t. I’m in serious jeopardy of losing my business.”
A spokeswoman for the city said Blackmore was in a meeting Thursday afternoon and not available, but added Smith was given the requisite 24 hours to move
his truck for snowclearing operations.
“He was given the notice in person, spoken to and told, and he would not move his vehicle,” said Jennifer Mills. “The other mobile vendors moved their vehicles. In fact, one of them actually towed themselves, because their vehicle would not start, and he (Smith) would not move.”