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Victory for Latino food vendors - Food stand favorites pass city inspections; customers hungry for return

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Authentic Latin American fare will finally return to Red Hook this week or next — but it might cost you a bit more to enjoy it.

The popular stands serving up the cuisine were typically open Memorial Day through the fall, but the city required vendors to bring their operations up to code.

At press time, six of the 10 vendors have passed inspection by the city’s Department of Health, according to Caesar Fuentes, executive director of the Food Vendor Committees of Red Hook Park, the vendors’ non-profit umbrella organization. The other four will be ready for inspection next week.

Each vendor has spent between $30,000-$40,000 to upgrade or retrofit their carts, bringing them up to code.

“Of course the vendors have amazing expenses,” Fuente said. “They have to find ways to recuperate. Yes, there will be an increase in effect.”

At press time, Fuentes was planning an emergency meeting with the vendors to discuss whether to open this weekend or next.

Last year, the entire operation was threatened with extinction.

The Department of Parks and Recreation had previously told the vendors that if they wanted to remain at their current location at Bay and Clinton streets, they would have to bid for the right — just like vendors across the city. They had previously operated in the spot for 30 years on a yearly lease, without incident.

The vendors, who received overwhelming support from a legion of customers and elected officials, including Senator Charles Schumer, applied for a permanent license in the fall, which was granted in March.

Along with the cost of bringing their equipment up to code, the vendors will also pay roughly $10,000 in city fees, a figure expected to rise by about five percent, officials have said.

If all that means pricier papusas, than so be it, said Scott Lamb, a devoted customer and vendor supporter.

“I hope they raise their prices, so they make back the money they lost to bring everything up to code,” he said.

“I’m glad they will be open,” he added.

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