The hotel that waged a 'weenie war' on hotdog stands

A hotel manager seemed to relish underselling unsightly frankfurter vendors, who couldn't catch up to his cut-rate prices.

Unlicensed vendors created a 'food circus' that wasn't part of the hotel's image

Hotel hotdog stand undercuts unwanted neighbours

34 years ago
Duration 1:29
A hotel on Toronto's waterfront opens its own street meat pusher to fend off other frankfurter vendors.

If you can't beat them, join them. But if you don't want them joining you, beat them. 

Traditional hotdog carts
Two hotdog carts with colourful sunshades took up position daily outside a downtown Toronto hotel. (Newshour/CBC Archives)

That was the philosophy of the management at a Toronto waterfront hotel when management set up a tasteful structure in May 1989 to house a hotdog stand adjacent to the more colourful carts of two traditional frankfurter dealers.

"Hotdogs here sell at their regular price: two dollars," said CBC reporter Bill Harrington, showing a mobile vendor. "But this hastily erected gazebo sells at a dollar-fifty."

And the strategy seemed to be working.

A long line of 17 people, most of them in business wear, stood in line to buy for $1.50 wieners and 50-cent cans of pop from hotel staffers in chefs' hats.

The chalkboard menu called it a "weenie war," and it was serious business for the hotel.

'Attacked by a food circus'

"We're doing $50 million worth of renovation in a hotel to make it a wonderful place for guests to visit, and they come outside and they're attacked by a food circus," said manager Rick Layton, referring to the carts with red and yellow umbrellas.

Man in suit and tie
A manager from the hotel, with the gazebo in the background, complained about the litter left behind because of mobile vendors. (Newshour/CBC Archives)

The "food circus" wasn't about to go without a fight. 

"It adds character to the area, and I don't see the problem with us being in front of their hotel," said Clara Ursitti, who was staffing one of the traditional hotdog carts.

"It's a summer job for me, I make money to go to school."

But it looked as if the circus might have to pack up. 

"The police, who had ignored the vendors' illegal location, are now moving in," said Harrington, as an officer could be seen gesturing at the cart operator.   

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