Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Tickets, vendors laws may soften

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A confusing tangle of rules regulating Cincinnati street vendors and ticket sellers has been unraveled into one ordinance that could leave violators facing fines instead of jail.

        The new ordinance comes two months after City Council first OK'd and then lifted a vending ban along the entire riverfront — and after merchants complained they were being driven out of business.

        The ordinance, which council members got a glimpse of during Monday's law committee meeting, would allow vending throughout downtown except the streets immediately around the two sports stadiums and Firstar Center.

        It also decriminalizes the penalties, meaning the most serious thing vendors face is a 30-day revocation of licenses after three citations in one year.

        But some vendors still aren't happy, complaining that the penalties are too stiff and that the restricted areas include some of the prime hawking locations.

        “Why should Mike Brown get all of the action?” asked Mark Jackson, owner of American Ticket. ""(Taxpayers) already gave him $500 million. Isn't that enough?”

        He said the restrictions around the stadium leave vendors fighting for scraps along less-traveled streets than the ones that immedi ately approach the Bengals Stadium.

        While he agreed the new ordinance is less severe than the previous one, he said the fines are too harsh.

        “Some of these guys only make $10,000 a year,” he said. “That will put them out of business.”

        Fines would be $200, and any vendor that had his license revoked would have to pay a $300 fee for a new license.

        “My only concern was to make sure there was a way to fight the tickets,” said independent vendor John Grimmelsman. “They tell me there is, but I still think the fines are too stiff.”

        Other business owners, who sell tickets out of storefronts, said the ordi nance doesn't go far enough. They want to add an off-limits zone 300 feet from their stores, saying that street vendors keep their customers away.

        Assistant City Solicitor Ely Ryder said there is not much difference between the street sellers and the storefront sellers. The ordinance makes it a violation for a vendor to interfere with any business.

        Under existing ordinances, which council suspended until a new one could be drafted, the police department enforced the laws one way, city solicitors were interpreting them another way and the economic development department was issuing vending licenses with its own set of guidelines.


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