Home > Cultural Movement, Design the Details, Economics, Editorial, Guest Writer > More reaction to TC’s steep day rate for peddlers

More reaction to TC’s steep day rate for peddlers

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Re: Peddler fees…

Guest post by Henry Morgenstein

Response to a recent headline from the Record Eagle: “Price to Peddle Goods go up.”  The explanation? “A desire ‘to have an even playing field’ for businesses that pay rent and property.

When I read that the City was planning to raise the peddlers permit fee from $50 a day to $100 a day I knew what I should do. I should gather all the research — the research that has been out there for well over fifty years — that shows that peddlers, food vendors, draw people to a location — lots & lots of people.

The businesses in front of which the many food carts set up, benefit from this influx of foot trade.

I could go on– and I will in a second — but as I grow old, I grow oh so tired of fighting the good fight.  Fifty years ago the businesses downtown were against “freeloaders’ on the sidewalk peddling their goods, paying no rent. They seemingly remain that way. Don’t they know by now that having them there is a tremendous positive, a good thing, not a bad thing?  Yes, such trade needs some regulation — but 100 dollars a day?  That’s not regulation.  That’s punitive.  That’s prohibitive.  That will do what it is meant to do.  Most food vendors, peddlers cannot afford $100 a day.

Proven: taco carts attract people

The intent is clear.  We don’t want you. But we should want them.  We really really should.

When I was growing up, everyone in my generation read a terrific, groundbreaking book called The Organization Man (Amazon) by William H. Whyte.  The brilliant man who wrote this groundbreaking book, William H. Whyte went on to study the dynamic of cities.  The first book he wrote about cities had the unusual title The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (PPS).  It was published long ago, in 1980.

In it he wrote:

If you want to seed a place with activity, put out food…food attracts people who attract more people.”

Downtown stores want to attract people — to make people want to come downtown rather than to a Mall.  The downtown cannot do that by offering more parking.  The downtown can offer more food, a greater variety of food, more quirky merchandise, more people walking around to talk to.  But what the downtown merchants need to do, if anything, is drop the fee for peddlers.

Downtown merchants need to read the literature that says: Peddlers, especially food peddlers, in front of your store is good — very, very good.

William H. Whyte went on to write a thick, terrific book called City (Amazon).  In it he writes:

Outdoor eating has a strong shill effect —  which is to say, food attracts people, who attract more people.”

Our downtown wants to attract people.  It should encourage “food peddlers,” — and all other kinds of peddlers.

NOTE: The DDA Board and the City Commission will be revisiting the peddler fees outside of the downtown district. The recent rate increase wasn’t intended to be applied to all commercial districts in the City, but that was how the summer rate, previously at $50/day then raised to $100/day, was instituted.  

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  1. July 24, 2012 at 9:13 am

    That’s $3000 a month in rent. Who’s paying that in TC? Not many businesses I bet. Plus at a time when our economy is imploding and jobs are vanishing, creating alternative means for income is essential.

  2. Raymond Minervini
    July 24, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Great post. I was in NYC a few weeks ago and observed the dynamics around their many food carts. Amazing. I think food carts in TC would also offer an important food option at a different price point. The restaurants in downtown TC will never be able to meet the peak summer time demand for dining. Without food carts as an option, how many people now get in their car and spend their money outside of downtown, when they are simply looking for an easy to get bite to eat?

  3. July 24, 2012 at 10:01 am

    One could argue that there’s an unfair advantage to having a brick and mortar shop: ability to provide warmth, air conditioning, shelter from rain, and plumbing for their customers and employees. They can also keep their inventory in one place overnight.

  4. July 24, 2012 at 10:07 am

    As a thought exercise, and not necessarily thinking I 100% support, it is curious that not one city official raised the issue of “fairness” when CVS came to town. Yet, CVS’s very large scale, the opposite of street vendors’ very small scale, provides them with an “unfair” advantage over local owned businesses.

  5. Brian
    July 24, 2012 at 10:49 am

    When I worked in downtown Denver, meeting at a food fender for lunch was a hightlight of the day where one could meet your other downtown colleagues, or connect at your favorite cart to proceed with the rest of your downtown activities. On my days off, and weekends, I often made specific trips into downtown because I knew I could see and do all the fun things on my agenda (or randomly) and never had to worry about where or when I was going to get a fun, quirky, unique,and affordable bite to eat. God forbid we should bring anything like that to downtown TC! Thanks for your posts on this issue.

  6. July 24, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Actually, it is simply $3,000 in “penalty fees” (a.k.a. permit fees) and in return the vendors receive nada because the City doesn’t allow vending in public spaces. Unless otherwise arranged with a property owner, vendors in TC then likely incur rent charges for being on someone’s property, thus, as renters, paying taxes.

  7. Chris W
    July 24, 2012 at 11:55 am

    A few points worth noting:
    1. Food trucks are not legal anywhere within the city limits.
    2. There seems there is no clear delineation between food trucks and food carts
    3. The city commission received its recommendation to raise transient merchant fees from the DDA Board, which is made up of city residents and business owners
    3. The new fee structure ($50-100 a day from May 15th to September 15th) will not take place until May 15, 2013
    4. The fee structure is only in effect in the DDA District
    5. Transient merchants can presently only set up on private property, not public spaces ((with the exception of designated festivals).
    6. Existing bricks and mortar restaurants do not have to pay transient merchant fees
    7. Clinch Park’s new renovation includes spaces for several food carts (and other transient vendors) for 2013. No word on the fee structure.

  8. Raymond Minervini
    July 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Interesting points. We need to change #1. As for #3, well, I think it is fair to say the DDA is protective of their pie. Better to make the pie bigger! I believe NYC requires food trucks to be parked no less than 200 feet from a brick and mortar eatery.

  9. Chris W
    July 25, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Upon further review, #4 should be corrected, the new transient merchant fee structure does cover the entire city.

  10. July 27, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Chris you miss the point, .. stop with the rule making!!! Let them do their thing. DDA needs to stop dictating and the city commission needs to stop tearing down those things(fire department, city workers, etc..) that make TC the fine place it is. And get with promoting diverse businesses, and flavors of the area as in foodietainment!

  11. henrymorge
    July 28, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    If you go to a Friday night live downtown, fully one out of every five people is eating something: chocolate, a sandwich, sausages, burgers, ice cream. There are two reasons people flock to Friday Night Live: Food & people.

  12. cwendel
    July 28, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    KC, interesting that you’re assuming that I’m against food vendors, food carts, food trucks. I merely presented the guidelines (as confusing and reactionary as they are) for clarification (since no one seems clear on all of it).

    You’re preaching to the converted on the idea that more food options will drive additional traffic to downtown, creating a larger critical mass that will benefit all businesses. Seeing local food companies, restaurants, and vendors with non bricks and mortar operations at the Cherry Festival and Friday Night Live, there’s is no reason this couldn’t happen more broadly in downtown and other parts of town.

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