Traverse City’s un-cool approach to peddlers
Glad the Record Eagle followed-up with someone hardest hit by Traverse City’s latest reactive measure –the increase of the peddler’s fee (a.k.a. transient merchant). The doubling of the daily fee (summertime) from $50 to $100 is a blow to entrepreneurs as well as to citizens interested in a vibrant community with a diverse range of choices.
Instead of taking a holistic approach to the topic, City Commissioners, under advice by the downtown Development Authority, aimed to price potential street vendors out of the market in the name of “paying their fair share.”
In doing so, they ignored a few things in their arguments:
- If you own, or rent, commercial property downtown you may get a permit free of charge.
- Peddlers also have to pay rent to the land owner–thus taxes. (If you own land, you can basically set up a competing vending cart without a daily fee)
- TC doesn’t allow vending on public property (exemptions for events). I fail to understand what the $100/day covers. It certainly isn’t an embracing of a valuable contribution to the community, to place-making, and to the economy.
They claim it was to restrict sunglass vendors and palm readers, not restrict food carts. That doesn’t make it better. There are other-ways to regulate what occurs then simply pricing everyone out of business (square footage allowances, locations…). It is a clumsy approach that I think will drive opportunities, and people, away from Traverse City. Not by itself, but in combination with other un-cool ideas the City has instituted.
The DDA says they are continuing to look at how to allow food carts. It is my sense they are still approaching it from the negative. Instead, it’d be wise for them to shift their perspective and see how street vending can be embraced and accommodated, not simply moved out of the way.
In the end, the competition argument is bunk–street vendors create business and vibrancy in a place by filling niches that restaurants and other businesses aren’t as well positioned to serve. Sometimes, we want to sit down at a private table for a meal. Others times, we want to stand with The People in the open air and spill ketchup on our shirts. Often, we want to do both.
If you have a street vending story, please share it with us here.
Also, consider sending your comments to the DDA Board.
My story: I learned to speak Chinese with a lot of help from street vendors. Sure, teachers helped, but there was no better classroom than walking the streets of Chengdu seeking out 1 on 1 instruction over steamed dumplings, pulled noodles, or a steaming cup of soy milk sipped from a plastic bag. I’d buy something to eat to pay for the instruction. There’s a public interaction that happens with street vending that is hard to achieve in a typical restaurant–and something we should embrace.
- Falafel treats — and hugs — are gone (Record Eagle)
- Food Truckers: Inside Michigan’s Burgeoning Food Cart Experiment (Found Michigan)
- Peddlers may get new title, fee increase (Record Eagle)
- Go Go Goodies: Traverse City’s newest and coolest bike business (mywheelsareturning.com)