Street vendors are pushing back after the NoDa Neighborhood & Business Association (NBA) proposed changes to city ordinances early in September.
Vendors say the proposed changes would effectively result in a ban on street vendors in the center of the bustling neighborhood, while the NBA says it would only like to implement a permitting process to better regulate which vendors are allowed to sell.
Vendors who set up along North Davidson Street near East 35th and 36th streets have begun handing out fliers to passersby that read, “BEWARE! NoDa Neighborhood & Business Association wants to shut down street vendors in NoDa!”
The flier points folks to a Change.org petition created by Michael Roessler in support of the street vendors, which at the time of this writing had surpassed 400 signatures.
“NoDa’s street vendors play a vital part in creating the vibrant, dynamic atmosphere that draws visitors and residents to Charlotte’s self-described arts district,” the petition reads. “Now these small businesses are under attack.”
But some business owners allege that the street vendors have caused too many problems along the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare.
During the August NoDa NBA meeting at Heist Brewery on North Davidson Street, seven local business owners took to the stage to voice their concerns with what they say has been increased aggression from street vendors over the last year, citing a shooting that occurred during a busy Friday evening on June 23.
According to witnesses, a fight broke out between vendors and quickly escalated from fists to tools to knives to guns. After one subject was shot, he reportedly stumbled into Growlers Pourhouse, followed by the suspect, who assaulted him again before shooting him two more times.
Business owners spoke about being threatened by vendors, some of whom have allegedly retaliated repeatedly against one longtime business owner on the block any time the police are called, regardless of whether that business owner was involved.
“The neighborhood is the worst version of itself that I’ve seen,” said one business owner who has run his business on the block for more than a decade.
One NBA member took to the stage to defend the vendors, stating that 85-90% of the vendors are great people and urging that community members not “allow one bad apple to ruin the barrel.”
He pointed out that research has shown that businesses only benefit from more people selling similar goods in their vicinity and emphasized that the proliferation of guns is the true problem when it comes to public safety in NoDa.
During the August meeting, attendees approved a motion directing the NBA Board to explore options about lobbying the city to pass an ordinance similar to one recently passed in Boone that could curb some of the issues business owners have had with unlicensed street vendors and/or potentially draft a petition to make NoDa a “No Peddling Zone.”
During the next meeting on Sept. 5, the board presented a drafted letter that will make three requests of the city:
- To designate a portion of downtown NoDa as a Congested Business District (CBD), which requires vendors to apply for a permit before they can set up on designated streets. The NoDa CBD would run along North Davidson Street between Charles Avenue to the railroad tracks near The Dog Bar, plus about a block in each direction of North Davidson Street on East 35th and East 36th streets. CBDs already exist in Uptown and South End, where permitting guidelines are so strict that rarely are street vendors seen on the sidewalks at all.
- To develop “sensible guidelines” that regulate street vending citywide, creating an ordinance similar to the one recently passed in Boone, which prohibits the selling of “used clothing, personal effects, home furnishings or similar used merchandise” to avoid “sales in the nature of ‘flea sale’ or ‘yard sales.’” (Quotes are from the Boone ordinance, not the drafted letter.) Boone’s ordinance applies only to the Municipal Service District, often called “downtown,” and allows for five vendors to apply to set up shop outside of the post office. The ordinance does not apply to brick-and-mortar businesses, buskers or performers.
- To better enforce existing statutes that could curb some of the negative effects street vendors have had on nearby businesses. This specifically relates to a regular complaint about street vendors parking in illegal spots to set up their stations. The city’s parking enforcement employees have refused to enforce the existing ordinance, citing intimidation by vendors, while CMPD has also refused, stating that it’s the job of parking enforcement.
Board members voted overwhelmingly to approve sending the letter to the city manager’s office. It’s unclear at this time if or when any potential action will be brought in front of Charlotte City Council.
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