In defence of hot dogs

March 2015

Below is a letter I wrote to our local councillors in Kyneton after learning that they had shut down our local weekend hot dog van.

Because, sometimes a man has to take a stand.

Dear Councillors (and Mayor),

I am writing to voice my concerns around a recent decision, made by a council officer, to ban the Friday and Saturday night trading of “The Hot Doggy” Food Truck outside the Mechanics Hall on council land.

I am unaware of the specific details around this cancellation, but from what I am able to understand from their account on the Facebook website, the reasons given feel arbitrary (stolen concrete pavers?) and inconsistent (food trucks were allowed to trade in the same location as part of the Kyneton Music Festival). I ask that you overrule this decision and allow them to continue trading.

It is my opinion (and one shared by many others, who I will be encouraging to contact you) that this food truck - or indeed any food truck catering late on a Friday or Saturday night - provides a community service that enlivens and caters for the township in a way that other businesses have been unwilling or unable to.

The service provided by The Hot Doggy is likely only feasible in conjunction with council support. The ability to use or rent otherwise vacant council land and power in the highly visible area in front of the Mechanics Hall is likely vital to their continued viability. I have outlined several reasons below why it is in the councils’ best interest to support this endeavour.

Personally, I relish the chance to buy a delicious hot dog (or two) from a friendly face at 2am in the morning after being a patron at one of Kyneton’s pubs on a Friday and Saturday night.

Their presence has been a highlight of living here over the last year. If we are unable to support them, the town will lose as they be forced to move their otherwise local business to Castlemaine.

Symbiotic relationship with other local businesses

The trading hours of The Hot Doggy appear to have been structured to ensure that they do not compete with other bricks and mortar eating establishments. As far as I am aware, the Hot Doggy does not commence trading until 9pm - well after other local businesses have either stopped serving food or are closed.

The presence of the Hot Doggy (and the availability of food) could also be seen as a driver encouraging patronage of local businesses, especially over winter. For me personally, the thought of being able to have some warm food and friendly conversation on the walk home is a large part of what makes Kyneton unique among country towns.

In exchange for the promise of warm food on the way home, I often spend hundreds of dollars as a patron of the Royal George or other establishment. I would not have spent this money in the town at all had this option not been available. It is not an either/or choice in this case. It is a symbiotic relationship.

As I’m sure you’re aware, in a town with a relatively small population, encouraging the patronage of local establishments is vital to ensuring their continued viability. If The Hot Dogger contributes to this patronage, then they should be supported, not discouraged.

A community service

Kyneton has five pubs catering to a variety of tastes. The location occupied by The Hot Doggy in front of the Mechanics Hall makes it highly visible to people leaving these pubs on their way home.

As previously mentioned, none of those pubs offer hot food past a certain point - usually around 9pm - but often remain open until midnight or later on Friday and Saturday nights. This means people have potentially been drinking for 3-4 hours with no option to purchase hot food anywhere. With the possible exception of a crusty pie at the service station…which may not actually meet the definition of hot, or food.

I have seen first hand that people come out of local pubs in a rowdy or boisterous state. Many of these people see the hot dog van - it is like a brilliantly illuminated Siren for people who have had a few to drink - and go and get some food.

Making the town safer for residents

Anecdotal reports from Kyneton Police indicate that this calms people down, which, from a residents perspective, is a very good thing. I have seen people who, prior to the consumption of a hot dog, were swearing and yelling aggressively, subdue themselves as they devour a hot dog, sitting on a park bench, then walk home quietly. I’m not saying this happens every time, but it does make a significant difference.

As a resident, and father of two young children who need their sleep and safety, I would prefer anything that encouraged peaceful behaviour. In this case, that means having had the chance to eat some food, as opposed to stumbling home in potentially raucous and confrontational stupor.

The staff at the Hot Doggy are patient and tolerant enough to provide this opportunity and so should be supported and encouraged.

Encouraging local entrepreneurs

There are only limited opportunities for employment of younger people in Kyneton, especially for those who go to Uni or Tafe in the city during the day. There are no cinemas or late night restaurants to employ younger people in the times they are available to work.

The Hot Doggy was started by an entrepreneurial 16 year old, Maddy Cox, who spotted and took a rare opportunity that existed in the local market. Without fail she is helped each night by her father, a local electrician who works a full day, then comes and works again to support his daughter. I only hope that I am as supportive of my daughters when they grow up because this is a herculean effort.

What sort of message are we sending to others who might follow a similar path if, as a township, our local council can’t support ventures like this? You should be holding up and supporting Maddy as a poster child, not pushing her down for the absurdities of a broken concrete paver or providing preferential treatment to businesses from out of town.

Courteous community citizens

The last thing work mentioning is that Maddy is not simply using council land and leaving it in a messy state for people the next day. The Hot Doggy have gone out of their way to ensure that the business doesn’t affect the local surrounds.

A great example of this is the fact that they bring their own mini-wheely bins despite the fact that there are other bins nearby. Here is a picture of Maddy cleaning the pavement to make sure that people using the area the next day are not inconvenienced. It’s worth noting that this picture was taken at 2:38am in the morning. I would suggest strongly that you don’t get many tenants as conscientious as these.

I would hope that this letter is compelling enough to reverse the decision to ban The Hot Doggy from trading on public land which I feel must have been made in error. I am also happy to discuss this in person and will provide my mobile phone number.

If it is not, I would like a response detailing the reasons why they have been refused and what steps can be taken to appeal this decision.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know you are likely to be a very busy person. So am I, which is why I often like to buy hot dogs at midnight.

Kind Regards,

Paul Tagell

Kyneton Resident