- Jorge Quezada serves roasted peanuts to a customer from a spot on Fenton Street, even though he has a permit to sell on Ellsworth Drive. (Photo: TBD Staff)
Back in October, Jorge Quezada set up his new roasted nut cart in front of the Regal Majestic Stadium 20 movie theater in Downtown Silver Spring. He and his brother, Nelson Quezada, had a Montgomery County-issued permit and everything in place for Nuts4Nuts, they thought, to sell along Ellsworth Drive.
Then a private security guard with Downtown Silver Spring told Jorge Quezada he couldn’t do business there.
It turns out that the stretch of Ellsworth Drive where the Quezadas had a permit to sell is owned by Montgomery County but technically leased to Peterson Cos. Who exactly gets to decide what is allowed to go on the sidewalks there is unclear.
Jennifer Nettles of Peterson Cos. writes in an email to TBD that any vendors wanting to sell along the 900 block of Ellsworth Drive have to first get a temporary license with Peterson Cos. “because we manage the street.” A vendor would then go to the county to get health inspections and the proper vending license.
But the Quezadas didn’t know that, and, it appears, neither did the county, since the permitting office issued the brothers a license to operate on the 900 block of Ellsworth Drive without ever notifying Peterson Cos.
Montgomery County zoning manager Susan Scala-Demby says that the county is allowed to issue permits to vendors along Ellsworth Drive, as it’s a county road.
“Silver Spring belongs to all of Montgomery County. It’s not private, the whole area is not private there,” she says.
Meanwhile, Jorge and Nelson Quezada have set up next to Veteran’s Plaza on Fenton Street and sell sugar-coated roasted peanuts, almonds, and cashews while enviously eying their desired location just across the street, where movie-goers mill about.
“We prefer to sell in front of the movie theater,” Jorge Quezada says. “This is better for me. There’s a lot of people on that side.”
View Nut cart vendor in DTSS in a larger map
Granted, with a skating rink set to be open in just a few weeks, the cart could soon receive a whole new clientele. But the issue highlights the confusion, even within the Montgomery County government, as to who controls Downtown Silver Spring’s roads.
Private control versus public use of Downtown Silver Spring’s space has been an issue for skateboarders and photographers alike (remember when County Executive Isiah Leggett had to weigh in on the constitutionality of a photography ban on streets there?).
The Quezadas aren't raising a big stink about the issue. They say they're mostly just confused. But if Silver Spring's food truck and cart wave gains momentum, unwelcome competition in the eyes of existing brick-and-mortar restaurants could easily lead to food truck and cart wars, as it has elsewhere. Is another debate on the public use of space in Silver Spring on the horizon?