Elisaveta Moskova’s hot-dog cart business has made news recently for health violations, but she is also at the centre of a heated street-food turf war.
When Elisaveta Moskova’s hot-dog cart business ended up on the front page of the Toronto Star last Monday, it led to a flurry of disgust: The Star reported that her four carts have long been among the worst health-inspection violators in town. And customers didn’t even know it, because street-food carts aren’t required to post inspection notices. (According to Toronto Public Health spokesperson Kris Scheuer, the paper signs “would not withstand weather conditions if posted on hot-dog carts.”)
At Moskova’s Front Street spot this week, she was feeling a different kind of heat. She’s at the centre of a street-food turf war on the hotly contested block in front of the Rogers Centre.
Her nearest competitor, Ted’s Gourmet, has had a prime spot at the foot of the stadium’s pedestrian ramp since 1984. With a less advantageous position down the street, Moskova has taken to selling ultra-cheap dogs at $1.50 each to lure customers away. But such price wars, said the Ted’s vendor (who declined to give her name) are far from kosher in the food-cart community, where prices are mostly standard across the board.
Recently, Moskova exacerbated the situation by posting extra-large, orange “$1.50” signs on her cart as well, which is, said the vendor at Ted’s, “like a cardinal sin.”
Marianne Moroney, executive director of Toronto’s Street Food Vendors Association confirmed that price undercutting is unusual. “This is a vendor that’s been really hard on the rest of the industry,” she said. “I think it’s sad that somebody does that to everybody else.” And Sal Saleh of Champs Food Supplies, a popular downtown hot-dog supplier, said that no one could turn a profit selling one of their dogs for $1.50.
Moskova herself declined comment, except to say, “Everyone is out to get me.”