Young and Hungry

New Documentary Looks at the Struggle of D.C.’s Hot Dog Vendors

The plight of D.C. hot dog vendors has been a hot-button issue amid the growth of the food truck scene and new vending regulations. Now, it's also the subject of a documentary seeking funding on Kickstarter.

The film, Dog Days, traces the partnership between a veteran hot dog vendor struggling to make ends meet and an unemployed entrepreneur looking to help sidewalk vendors find new ways to compete. Filmmakers Laura Waters Hinson and Kasey Kirby spent four years following Siyone, a cart operator and East African refugee, and Coite Manuel, a former industrial engineer who started a business called Food Chain to supply carts with gourmet options other than hot dogs.

The filmmakers, who won a student Academy Award for the documentary As We Forgive, have already spent $200,000 of their own money on the project. Now, they are trying to crowdsource an additional $30,000 for to help pay for post-production elements like editing, music, and graphics.

Check out the trailer above and the Kickstarter page here.

  • kob

    Just how big is the hot dog stand industry in DC?

  • Brizzle

    Not as big as it should be because the man is holdin' em down! This documentary looks like it will show what's up!

  • Laura Waters Hinson

    The hotdog industry in DC has dwindled to around 300 vendors due to a moratorium imposed by the DC City Council more than a decade ago. The hold on granting new licenses for hotdog vendors was purportedly due to a lack of proper regulations to govern the industry. After many years, there are still no new laws in place to allow this largely immigrant-based industry to flourish. In fact, there are likely hundreds of people who'd like to start a hotdog cart who can't! However, in the past few years, Food Trucks have risen to popularity, being granted licenses normally reserved for ice cream trucks. You can see how complicated the issue is - which is why we're making a film about it! Check out our Kickstarter campaign at to learn more about the story of the film, which we've been filming for the past 4 years!

  • styglan1dc

    So I don't mean to be a jerk or unsympathetic to the plight of small business owners and hard working immigrants but how am I supposed to feel sorry for an industry that has chosen to remain stagnant and non-competitive for years?

    They choose to offer only one thing and not change in any way - hot dogs and soda aren't being forced on them. Or am I missing anything? Can't the stands offer bagels and shawarma if they want? I mean, food options seem to be entirely within their control. Please enlighten me.

    The documentary sounds cool though so I will def. support that.

  • GEmbler

    @styglan1dc It's far more complicated than it seems. Due to the regulations, vendors are required to store their carts at a city approved depot overnight--for health reasons. These depots also supply food, mainly the hot dogs, chips, soda, etc. Currently, all those depots are held in the same vendor. As you get deeper into the story, word on the street is basically if you try to buy food your food from anyone else or don't buy enough food from them... your rent at the depot could go up, or they could choose to no longer let you store your cart there...which would leave you in violation of city regulations. Again, super complicated, but it's my understanding that the quote from one vendor in the above trailer "This is a hostage situation" and "the vendors are living in fear" is referring to this situation. There have been numerous task forces formed to try to get regulations changed, but there are too many voices speaking into the process to make final decisions.

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