Crony Capitalism

Atlanta Continues Tormenting Street Vendors with New Regulations

New ordinance rushed through to try to avoid contempt charges against mayor

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Chaos! Utter chaos!
Credit: tigger89 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

In October, Reason Intern Jess Remington updated readers with the latest about Atlanta's war on street vendors. The city revoked the business permits of independent vendors and handed the rights to sell to a monopoly. The Institute for Justice represented some of the affected vendors and fought back. A judge ruled in their favor last year, but rather than comply, Mayor Kasim Reed shut down all street vending. In October, the judge ruled yet again that Reed must allow the street vendors back their permits.

But the city and the mayor still hadn't complied and are now facing a potential contempt ruling for defying the judge's orders.

In order to get the judge off the city's backs, Atlanta's City Council passed an ordinance Monday creating more regulations and conditions for vendors to operate. The Institute for Justice is not impressed.

"The ordinance is a step back for Atlanta vendors," Institute for Justice Attorney Rob Frommer told Reason. Among the problems with the new rules, Frommer explained, is that it replaces the proposed private monopoly with the government instead. The government will still control where vendors can sell goods, mandate how they sell things, and even control exactly what goods they may sell. A street vendor may not sell items that are the same as what's being sold in nearby brick-and-mortar shops.

"The end result is the same," Frommer said. "There's less opportunities, less choice, and less benefits for consumers." He described the anticompetitive product restrictions as "patently unconstitutional."

Frommer said the Institute for Justice will have to assess the ordinance more thoroughly before deciding their next steps, as it was rammed through in just two weeks, and there's been little analysis. In the meantime, they're still pushing forward to try to have the judge rule Mayor Reed in contempt.

"For 11 months, Mayor Reed violated the law by preventing honest entrepreneurs from working," Frommer said. "We expect the court to call him to account for his lawless actions."

Below, the Institute for Justice's video explainer about the ongoing fight. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the city is not providing in these new rules an option for street vendors around Turner Field, where the Braves play: