TARPON SPRINGS MAY BAN PASSING OUT MENUS ON STREET-Andrew Stelzer

06/05/06

In Tarpon Springs, a decades long tradition of people standing on the sidewalk handing out restaurants menus may be ended Tuesday night, when the city commission votes whether to ban an activity which some say has gotten out of hand. The economic and cultural effects of the ban could be far reaching, and many community members are calling for a solution outside the legal system. From tarpon Springs, WMNFs Andrew Stelzer reports.

SOUND OF GREEK TOYS

In a souvenir shop along Dodecanese Boulevard, even the toys speak Greek. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the rich heritage of this Northern Pinellas county town is on display along the sponge docks, as tourists and locals walk the strip of sponge stores and restaurants, most with names like Pappas, Kostas, and Hellas. The trick is figuring out which one is better that the rest.

BUS TROLLEY NOISE

ACT—NICK AND PETER HAWKING “Ready for lunch?….Menus from mamas..best food in town..�

Peter Keirov and Nikos Tsoutsos have been standing on the corner all day, handing out menus for Mamas restaurant, and the Dodecanese restaurant and bakery. While Keirov, who's 15, and has only being doing this for 4 months, regards his style as quiet, Tsoutsos has more than a decade of experience, and is more aggressive with passersby.

ACT-Nick “How you guys doing, ready for a menu, foot massage, oil change. I make em laugh�

Tsoutsos says he has developed techniques over the years.

ACT-nick “You don’t want to stop the people from walking..you want to stay, you want a menu..you want to step to the side, there’s people here that get in peoples faces…you can say you want a menu..or you can say..do you want em..see when I got in front of her, but when I step aside..you don’t want to violate an area..�

But some locals think that many of the menu hawkers have become increasingly disrespectful, and as of June 6th, Tsoutsos, a single father, may be out of a job. The Tarpon Springs city commission has already voted once to ban the handing out of menus on public property, and a second vote would put the law on the books. The Dodecanese restaurants is two blocks down Athens Street, and Tsoutsos says those pushing for the ban, including some of the bigger restaurants are being insensitive to the needs of those who aren’t on the main drag.

ACT-nick “The food is good, but the shop is 3 blocks back, they need me. These guys pay for high real estate…but they are back there they depend on me like a crutch, its not fair..�

Kierov has more mixed feelings about the situation.

ACT-peter “It should be the way it is people should have personal space…but you have to do it, you have to promote it..�

Kierov says he can bring mamas more than 60 customers in a day. Lynette, who was visiting from Brandon for the day, took a menu from Peter, and on that basis was headed back down Athens street to Mamas Greek cuisine. She doesn’t think the solicitation ban is necessary.

ACT “I don’t think I should do that, its good advertising..YOU GOIN TO MAMAS..yes and the prices are better..�

GREEK MUSIC

There’s also the issue of tradition; many in tarpon Springs say that aggressive street promotion is a tradition that goes back to Greece. But not everyone agrees that it a tradition worth holding onto.

ACT-Michael John “This is free speech man…Don’t be hassalin the tourists man, don’t hassle the tourists..�

Michael John, who lives in the neighborhood, and who’s first job as a teenager was on the sponge docks across the street, thinks there has to be a better solution than an all out ban..

ACT (cont) “…IM WITH WMNF..I find it a bit obtrusive, it usually turns off the tourists…I think there’s other avenues..another question is south beach, the hostesses are outside, they got the podium and hostess, not obtrusive, its not pushing, it’s a pull, that’s a great alternative. I used to sell tickets on the spongedocks hollering out do you want to take a trip..

Although nobody spoke against the ban when it was unanimously approved by the city commission last month, the second, confirming, vote will take place this Tuesday evening at 630 pm, and Vickie Pastrikos, whose owned the family run Dodecanese restaurant and bakery for the past 7 years, says she and others plan to be there to speak before the second vote is taken.

ACT-Vickie “Its gonna effect us, we are down the street..�

ACT-Vickie “I can get easy 20 tables by people handing out the menus, easy 20 tables.

Pastrikos says she also hopes some sort of compromise can be reached, such as a booth where all the restaurants can have menus available. She says the problem is mainly with a bunch of girls hired by a restaurant, who some have nicknamed the “cheerleading squad� for their in your face promotional tactics. Indeed, before discussion of the ban surfaced, the owner of a giftshop submitted a videotape of the women handing out menus to police

ACT-Vickie “There’s 2 or 3 girls down there, people don’t like to get attacked, people don’t like that…�

But the cheerleading squad is nowhere to been found this afternoon, in fact, Keirov and Tsoutsos are the only menu hawkers along the main drag.

ACT-nick “How are you doin, ready for a menu..NO THANKS..�

Tsoutous who grew up spending time in Mytilini, on the Greek isle of Levbos says the entire issue is ironic considering that many of the restaurants owners and owners are related or have changed hands from family to family. While he acknowledges that on occasion, he’s seen street solicitors grab menus out of people’s hands and tell them not to eat at a competitor’s establishment, he thinks the problem is grossly exaggerated.

ACT-Nick “98 percent of the people don’t care, nobody emails the mayor we met guys with mayors…not the majority..�

Regardless of the vote, restaurants will still be able to have someone out front shouting the days specials or holding large menu signs, just not handing out individual menus. For that reason, says the 1st generation American born John Michael, the community has to come up with a solution themselves.

ACT-John “I’m all for people making money, but its obtrusive. Greek culture..but it’s casting a shadow, instead of get the food, its check out our bargain.�

ACT-John “I think they need to come up with a program that works for tourist and restaurants..’

ACT-Nick “How you doin, ready for a menu? Foot massage, oil change..�

For WMNF news, from Tarpon Springs, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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