Last week, the Star Ledger's Barry Carter wrote about the plight faced by a local newsstand owner in Newark, NJ who was having trouble getting the city to renew the license on his nearly 40-year-old business:
[Robert] Vernacchia, 69, doesn't know how much longer he'll be in business here because the city hasn't renewed his license in four years and licensing agents have threatened to shut him down. Vernacchia says his license was renewed every year as long as the business facing his newsstand didn't have a problem with him being there. All that changed in 2008 when Valu-Plus, a discount store that's no longer in business, told the city it didn't want the newsstand in front of its store anymore. As a result, Vernacchia said, the city denied his renewal application for a license when he reapplied.
Vernacchia, however, is still there peddling coffee, tea, snacks and years of friendship, not knowing what's going to happen. "I feel like I'm on death row," said the Newark native who lives in Warren. The city didn't have much to say and that's been the problem. He doesn't understand why.
Vernacchia told Carter he expected to feel some heat from the city for his comments. In yesterday's Star Ledger, Carter reports he was right:
A day after my column appeared, the 69-year-old vendor got hit with four summonses. None of them, surprisingly, had anything to do with the business license he needs for a newsstand. A detective from the licensing department gave him two tickets for not having an eatery license and another two for not having a food license. Talk about going out of your way to cause a guy trouble. "I knew they were going to come after me," Vernacchia said. "I had that feeling something was going to happen."
Meanwhile, the Institute for Justice has gotten in touch with Vernacchia and his wife, and an attorney from the Institute, Robert Frommer, tells me there's no reason he can tell why Newark shouldn't issue Vernacchia the license he's requested.
In fact, Frommer says, the ordinance that required neighboring businesses' consent for a license, which was likely unconstitutional, was repealed three years ago. "It's a bit of a mystery of why they're refusing to issue him a license," says Frommer, pointing to a "culture of no" in Newark that often frustrates entrepreneurs. The Institute for Justice is seeking an answer from the city of Newark on where the "no" is coming from this time. Mayor Cory Booker's office and the Councilman in whose district Vernacchia's newsstand is located have not responded to requests for comment yet.