A tray of sizzling hot dogs, onions and peppers with three men in the background.
Hot dog stand owners serve a customer before an Oakland A’s baseball game at the Oakland Coliseum on Aug 7, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

Hordes of baseball fans spilled from the exits of the Oakland Coliseum on a recent Sunday afternoon, many stopping for a post-game hot dog in the stadium’s parking lots where food cart vendors gather, sometimes just a few, sometimes by the dozens.

Eduard Argueta serves up bacon-wrapped dogs covered in sizzling onions and peppers to hungry patrons while music blasts from a portable speaker at his feet. He’s been selling snacks outside Coliseum events for ten years alongside other members of his family. 

“I’ve determined myself to serve the people in the best way that I can,” he said. “It’s never been my intention to harm anybody.”

Argueta was one of a few hot dog vendors outside the stadium on Sunday—some in the parking lots and others on the bridge that connects the Coliseum to the BART station. On days when the Oakland A’s play a popular team like the San Francisco Giants, the number of vendors increases by a lot. The Coliseum Authority says this is a crisis waiting to happen.  

“The number has increased exponentially since we came back from Covid,” said Henry Gardner, executive director of the Coliseum Authority, the public agency that manages the Coliseum and Arena. “Because they are not in any designated spaces they are parking their hot dog operations in front of vehicles, behind vehicles—if we had a conflagration in the parking lot, we would have a disaster.”

The Coliseum Authority has been working with the Oakland Police Department and Fire Department for months to address the issue in a way that is supportive of the vendors, though an official plan has not been determined. 

Actions taken so far have been mostly educational, according to Gardner, who is concerned that vendors operating without permits create a liability. Police and security guards have been asking vendors if they’re permitted by the county Department of Environmental Health and sharing information on how to obtain one. 

The county has been working with the Coliseum and the police department to identify solutions and acknowledged that there can be barriers to obtaining a food vending permit.  

“We recognize that operators and those interested in starting a food business can face challenges as they navigate the permit and compliance pathway,” the department said in an email. “Our team will continue to provide education to vendors and assist the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena Complex.”     

While food cart operators have not yet been told to leave, Gardner warned that the agency will start telling unpermitted vendors they can’t sell at the coliseum, but no timeline has been identified for that action.

A Coliseum hot dog slathered in mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise. Credit: Amir Aziz

In the meantime, Oaklanders continue to show support for their favorite hot dog purveyors. Jacob Kelley, who attended Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, said he would rather purchase from the vendors than support businesses inside the stadium, which he feels are overpriced.

“I feel like it’s better to support the people outside who are out here hustling in the heat,” Kelley said. “These people are out here all the time working their asses off.” 

Argueta said he wants to expand his operation and takes pride in the work he and his family have been doing for so long. 

“It’s our lifestyle,” he said. “This is where we get our living.”

Ayla Burnett is a narrative writer and investigative reporter covering climate science, food and environmental justice in the Bay Area. She received her masters from UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism in May 2023, and was a UC Berkeley food justice reporting fellow at The Oaklandside/Nosh in the summer of 2023. Her stories have also been published in Berkeleyside, the Point Reyes Light, and more.