Another Stupid Law

The New York Times reports today on a Greenwich, Connecticut family-run coffee stand owner being kicked out of its spot thanks to a law that favors the blind:

[A]fter eight years serving the hedge fund traders, chief executives and other New York-bound professionals who stream through the station in the Old Greenwich neighborhood each morning, Mr. Maher was notified this month that he, his wife, Mary, and their 82-year-old helper, John Edward Kennedy, had lost the coffee concession and must leave by Jan. 12.

Greenwich town officials said they had little choice but to displace the Mahers in favor of a blind entrepreneur, a third-generation Greenwich man named Adam Fairbanks, who will take over the concession. They cited little-known but longstanding federal and state laws that give preference to the blind when it comes to operating concessions on government property.

“I don’t happen to think it’s a very good law,” said James Lash, a Republican who is Greenwich’s first selectman. “But it is the law.”

There is, of course, more to the story. If the Maher’s had a long-term contract, this probably would not have happened. In reality, Greenwich officials consistently refused requests for such a contract after they took over the stand in 2001, hence giving themselves the legal right to do this.

Mr. Lash, the selectman, said such arrangements are preferable because they allow the town to replace vendors who are uncooperative or who invite complaints. As Mr. Maher described the deal: “As long as you do a good job and keep everyone happy you can stay here.”

Unless, apparently, a blind man wants your business.

That doesn’t mean people are happy about it, though:

Some customers said they would treat the new vendor warily. “I’m not looking forward to giving him any of my business,” said Stephen Mesker, a regular. “Preference is one thing when you award a contract” for the first time, Mr. Mesker said, but taking it from an existing operator is “like telling someone who owns a house: ‘Guess what? We have someone better for it.’ ”

Yeah, they had that problem just down the road in New London awhile ago.