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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Melon Stands Open with New Regulations

MTA customer sizing up a watermelon at one of the city's 850 stands Wednesday on Sheremetyevskaya Ulitsa.
Watermelon stands officially opened up across the city Wednesday, the first time that vendors have been issued space according to city tenders, the city's consumer services department said Wednesday.

Some 850 watermelon stands will operate through Nov. 1 after obtaining licenses from local prefects, down from around 1,000 last year, a department spokesman told RIA-Novosti.

Under health regulations, sellers are not allowed to place melons directly on the sidewalk or cut a melon for customers to taste before they buy. If a customer asks to sample a melon, the seller must refuse. The seller also must provide a medical certificate from city health authorities.

The type of scale vendors use to weigh the melons is also regulated: Postal, medical, and household scales are prohibited. Vendors often complain that the regulations are an easy way for health and sanitation officials to extract bribes.

Perhaps the city's most notorious watermelon stand incident had nothing to do with hygiene, however.

In 1996, a watermelon vendor stabbed Olympic swimmer Alexander Popov less than a month after he won two gold medals at the Atlanta Olympics. Popov recovered and went on to capture gold in top European and world competitions.