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Beach town's ban prompts battle over shave ice

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 28, 2014 at 8:05 am •  Published: July 28, 2014

WESTERLY, R.I. (AP) — A $3 cup of shave ice is at the center of a dispute in this beach town between street vendors trying to stay in business and town officials who say the vendors cause traffic congestion and increase the potential for accidents.

George Manko sells Hawaiian shave ice in a private parking lot for beachgoers in Westerly, where celebrities including Taylor Swift and Conan O'Brien have summer homes.

The town recently banned street vendors, except for at festivals and one-time events. Town councilors who supported the ban said they did so because the police chief expressed safety concerns.

Manko continues to serve the treat from his yellow trailer with Hawaiian flowers and a surfing scene painted on it. He believes the councilors do not like the look of street vendors and are trying to turn Westerly into the next Martha's Vineyard.

"It's a blue-collar beach," said Manko, 59, of Groton, Connecticut. "Justin Bieber is not going to move in."

Manko pleaded not guilty in municipal court Thursday to 16 counts of violating the ordinance. He faces up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $500 for each count.

The tip jar at Manko's trailer has a sign saying that proceeds will be used to pay a bail bondsman. Customers who noticed the sign last week asked Manko to explain.

"Wow," said Ben Nigrelli, 19, of Westerly, after hearing about the citation. "I wish the best of luck to you. You've been here forever."

During an afternoon rush, Manko worked alongside his 33-year-old son, George A. Manko. Customers ordered cups of shave ice drizzled with syrup in flavors like blue fruit punch or coconut. While shave ice resembles a snow cone, the ice is finer.

The younger Manko said he relies on his summer earnings at the beach to help pay for his tuition and engineering books at the Harvard Extension School.

"I'm proud of my father," he said. "This is another lesson in standing up for what's right."

More than a dozen people stood in line. Twelve-year-old Hailey Misinonile, of West Haven, Connecticut, had ordered a cup minutes earlier. She returned for a refill and to buy one for her grandmother.

"This is like, my favorite place to go," she said.

Police Chief Edward St. Clair said no one complained to him about Manko. But other vendors have set up in areas they are not supposed to and caused traffic congestion, he added.

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