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Doggone trouble

Street vendor's license a 'mistake;' cart must be moved

Posted: November 15, 2011 4:17 p.m.
Updated: November 16, 2011 5:00 a.m.
Ashley Lewis Ford/C-I

The Dog House owner Ward Ratz may have to move his hot dog cart out of a parking lot in downtown Camden by the end of the month. Although Ratz was given a year-long city of Camden business license to operate in the area, a city official said the license was issued in error and the hot dog stand is in violation of a city code.

When Ward Ratz lost his job at Swisher Hygiene nearly two years ago, he was left with no source of income, no retirement and no pension.

 And that, Ratz said as he sat behind the table of his popular downtown Camden hot dog stand, is why he decided to start The Dog House.

“I figured food always sells, no matter how tough times get,” he said. “And since there was nothing else out there, I figured I’d try this.”

Not that he entered into his new business venture lightly. Ratz said he met every guideline and procedure that was required to open up his hot dog stand.

He took out a $1 million liability insurance policy and had his cart inspected by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Ratz not only obtained a retail license from the state but was also given a one-year business license from the city of Camden.

But now, after several months of operating his business, Ratz said the city of Camden is asking him to move his business or shut it down.

The reason?

A city of Camden official said Ratz should have never been issued a one-year business license.

City of Camden Zoning Administrator John Burns said The Dog House is in violation of city of Camden Ordinance 157.053, which states that temporary “sale” stands are only permitted in Camden’s B-2 and general development districts for a period not to exceed 30 days. Ratz’s hot dog stand is in the parking lot of Sisters of Camden, which is part of a B-1 district.

“He’s in violation of the ordinance, and he has to stop his business within 30 days,” Burns said, adding that Ratz can get a 30-day temporary business license to operate in B-2 areas which includes Wal-Mart, Lowes and Dusty Bend. “He got a business license that was issued by mistake by the business department here … it wasn’t his fault. We told him that we would refund his business license and give him 30 days to shut his business down.”

Under normal circumstances, Burns added, the city would require the business owner to shut down his business immediately.

Standing at his hot dog stand, Ratz proudly points to a list of more than 150 patrons who have signed a petition asking that he be allowed to keep his business in the parking lot.

“Nobody has a problem with me being here … everybody loves me here,’” Ratz said.

Camden resident Carole Jellenik said she would hate to see Ratz’s hot dog stand leave downtown, as many of the downtown businesses love to visit The Dog House on their lunch breaks.

“In these hard times, he took the bull by the horns and started his business, and that’s a good thing,” Jellenik said, adding that Ratz has managed to build up a lengthy client list in only a few short months. “He is an asset to Camden, and to the lunchtime business.”

Ratz has already filed an appeal and a hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 30.

But if his appeal fails, Ratz said he’ll just have to relocate his truck. But in his current location, he’s able to draw a lot of customers from nearby businesses.

“This is all I do for a living. I’m not retired. I have no pension,” he said. “Nothing. This is it.”

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