Who says you can’t fight city hall? Jerry Reddick, aka the Dawgfather, has been battling Halifax Regional Municipality for six years over the right to sell cheap eats outside Dal’s Student Union Building. On Tuesday, the self-styled black pugilist won another round when Regional Council overruled city staff and voted to “grandfather the Dawgfather.” That means Reddick will continue peddling his dawgs for at least one more year from his push cart on University Avenue.
The council vote came after a sometimes hilarious three-hour debate on a bylaw that’s supposed to govern street vending all the way from the wilds of Ecum Secum to the suburbs of Hubbards. The debate went into the ditch when rural councillors questioned whether Granny’s country bake sale would face the same licensing fees and bureaucratic red tape as the chip wagons of Halifax. “Council is out of control,” one member lamented as it became obvious once again that HRM, AKA the SuperCity, is an ungovernable monster. But in the end, Council did come together long enough to grant the Dawgfather his year-long reprieve and to send this dawg’s-breakfast bylaw back to city staff for a much-needed rethink.
So, why has Jerry Reddick been so successful in his fight with City Hall? To answer that question, all you have to do is visit his hot dog stand. Clad in a white head scarf and long flowing robe, the 49-year-old Dawgfather is hard to miss as he broils dogs, flips burgers and trades quips with customers. “I don’t dine on the swine,” he sang out last week as students and profs lined up in the noon-day sunshine for his $2 dogs and sausages and his $1 burgers. The rhyme is good advertising. Quality beef and veggie products. No greasy pork. It also reminds people that Reddick practises Islam—he converted in 1992—and that as far as he’s concerned, his identity is the key to his troubles with the city. “I am a black Muslim man persecuted on the basis of my race and religion,” he told Regional Council. “All the guns of HRM are pointed at me.”
Reddick is popular on campus because along with cheap food and good cheer, he offers credit to the broke and hungry. His food is always free on the first day of Ramadan and over the years, he’s given students the chance to win bursaries and free textbooks. But the Dawgfather’s free-wheeling, entrepreneurial style has not been popular with the Dal Student Union, which rents out space in the Student Union Building to the likes of Tim Hortons and the multinational food giant Sodexho. The DSU complained repeatedly to the city about the Dawgfather’s “illegal” cart. The city responded by siccing police and bylaw officers on the Dawgfather, issuing numerous traffic tickets (Reddick beat them in court) and even towing his cart away. The Dawgfather reacted by siccing the Human Rights Commission onto the city. As the human rights investigation continued, city staff drafted the new bylaw, which would legalize one vending spot on University Avenue, but would require Reddick to bid for it, possibly against the deep pockets of the DSU or Sodexho.
“There’s no reason for you to put Jerry Reddick out of business before the Human Rights Commission decides if he was correct,” the Dawgfather’s lawyer, Rocky Jones told Regional Council. Fortunately, most of the councillors agreed, granting Reddick another year to wage his dawg fight at Dal. Grandfathering the Dawgfather was an especially wise decision in light of Nova Scotia’s long history of racial oppression.
“I’m going to hit the jackpot here one day,” the Dawgfather joked last week. “One of these kids is going to go out and be the next Bill Gates. They might remember the Dawgfather and come back and say, ‘Hey man, let’s go and see the guy who used to hook us up when we had no money.’” Right on, Dawgfather! Fight on!
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