Local News

'Hot dog wars' erupt at Durham street corner

Posted October 26, 2010 5:53 p.m. EDT
Updated October 26, 2010 6:54 p.m. EDT

— Two Durham hot dog vendors working in the same spot across from Duke University Hospital have a major beef with each other and want the other one to move, but neither is budging.

At the corner of Erwin Road and Fulton Street, David Leeds and Steven Pruner fight for customers.

“I have the best hot dog in Durham,” said Pruner, who owns Outlaw Hotdogs.

“I’m a heck of a friendly guy. I look forward to doing business with you,” said competitor Leeds, who owns Dave’s Quickie Dogs.

Pruner was the first to put his cart at the corner, but he does not have a permit.

“I’ve been working this corner, building business relationships and selling hot dogs for three months,” he said.

Leeds, who says the location “is one of the finer corners for selling hot dogs in all of Durham,” decided to put his cart there, too, but with a vending permit.

“I understand the need for the law. The fact that it is a law makes me do it, because I am a law-abiding man,” Leeds said.

Pruner said he believes the requirements to get the proper certification are too burdensome and violate the state constitution. He particularly doesn't agree with a state rule that says vendors have to be affiliated with a permitted kitchen, like a restaurant.

“I am fighting for freedom and the right for every citizen to work,” Pruner said. “It’s really a prohibition against starting this job.”

Pruner has had several run-ins with the city and county and was ordered to stop operating, but he ignored the orders and renamed his business “Outlaw Hotdogs.”

The county health department is in the process of getting an injunction against Pruner.

“The rules are what they are,” said Marc Meyer, Durham County’s food and lodging supervisor. “We don’t really have the luxury of debating the rules that are enforced.”

Some of Pruner’s regulars said they don't see the need for a permit.

“I trust him. We had a long talk,” said customer Calvin Perkins. “He was in the Navy, so he’s pretty much clean.”

Others disagree, including one of Leeds’ customers, Teli Santini.

“If you are licensed, I know you are legal and that you go through the proper channels,” Santini said.

“Hot dog wars, wow!” said a man walking by, who did not buy food from either vendor.