St. George entrepreneurs deal with rough beginning

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The past couple of years have been a difficult beginning for some St. George entrepreneurs.

St. George is a corporation-based town. Most of the popular eating and shopping establishments are owned by large organizations. Chick-Fil-A turned its grand opening into a community event by inviting customers to pitch tents and spend the night in the parking lot; hundreds of locals gathered, got to know each other, and celebrated another corporation in town. Buffalo Wild Wings opened to a similar fanfare by offering free wings for a year to the first 500 customers, commemorating the arrival of another national chain.

I have seen local spots in Phoenix Plaza, located on 920 W. Sunset Blvd., change hands and names three times in the last two years. Feeling the crunch of the new Buffalo Wild Wings, located on 221 S. River Road, the Wing Nutz down the road on 1091 N. Bluff Street has closed down.

Small-business start up is not easy in St. George; it is costly and time consuming for individuals. There are plenty of disappointing rules that inhibit the entrepreneur’s chance of gaining entry without biased opposition. It seems big businesses remain favored by the City of St. George’s Business License Division.

St. George’s Mayor John Pike stated at the Dixie Republican Forum last September, “As for business, I would work to review city codes and ordinances that may be adverse to business growth.” 

As an entrepreneur, I welcome the idea of helping the men and women and their business ideas to flourish.

Opening a small business here in St. George was my goal last summer. With my knowledge gained from Dixie State University and my previous experience in the industry, I was ready. My plans were to open a classy New York-style hot dog cart and pass the business on to my son in the future.

I was going to park at Ancestor’s Square during the summer and provide quick food and drinks for the kids while making a little extra money. I had actually known a few St. George locals who had never eaten a hot dog from a hot dog cart, and one person in particular had it on the top of her bucket list.

My dream was crushed with a big, fat “No” by the St. George Business License Department. According to the City of  St. George website, the license officer may require additional information as permitted by ordinances, such as a background check. Not a problem here. The same website states there are additional application requirements for mobile catering units, but there is nothing on the website that restricts or denies a hot dog stand. I wasn’t planning on roaming the streets ringing a bell or parking my mobile cart on St. George Boulevard stopping traffic.

A hot dog cart, officially called a “mobile catering unit,” was placed in the same category as “occult art practitioners” and “sexually oriented businesses.” I inquired of the use of a catering truck instead, which seemed to fit in the mobile catering unit category. A catering truck was allowed, but it was not to be open for more than one hour in any location. This specification was not in any published guidelines. 

As for my hot dog cart, there was no reason given and no sympathy for my disappointment. Obviously, I was at a stalemate. It seems that these kinds of licensing decisions are made by one person: the licensing officer. There is no appeal process to the decision. This seemed unfair to privilege big corporations at the expense of small entrepreneurs.

In addition, it denies an entrepreneur a small business opportunity, and it deprives kids of a bite to eat while having summer fun. And as for my friend, I suppose she will have to drive to Arizona for a hot dog from a real hot dog cart.

Every big business starts as a small idea, and these uncompromising regulations need to be changed in the future to give St. George’s entrepreneurs a brighter one.