Atlanta's controversial vending program might be headed to court.
The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest nonprofit, has filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court on behalf of Larry Miller and Stanley Hambrick, two longtime street vendors who say the city's privatized program places unfair burdens on the curbside businesses.
In 2009, the city outsourced Atlanta's dysfunctional street vending program to General Growth Properties, a Chicago-based company that manages shopping malls. Rather than just setting up tables and hawking candy bars, handbags and incense, vendors outside Turner Field and around Five Points must rent permanent kiosk space from GGP.
According to the institute, kiosk rental cost between $500 to $1,600 each month — much more than the $250 licensing fee vendors paid under the old system. What's more, the lawsuit claims the city's new program violates the state Constitution.
"Atlanta did not, and does not, have the power to monopolize all public-property vending," it says. "The General Assembly never gave Atlanta permission to grant an exclusive franchise in vending, nor does the City’s charter give it this kind of authority."
“Atlanta has the worst vending laws in the entire country,” said IJ Staff Attorney Robert Frommer, lead counsel in today’s lawsuit. “Atlanta should be encouraging entrepreneurship in these tough economic times, but Atlanta’s vending monopoly stifles the economic growth that the city desperately needs.”
[Street vendors Larry Miller and Stanley Hambrick] own two popular vending businesses outside Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves stadium. They create jobs, offer inexpensive snacks and souvenirs to visitors, and make the sidewalks safer by keeping an eye out for fans that need help.
“If they put me inside of a kiosk, it would be like putting me in a coffin,” said Larry Miller. “For me to have a kiosk instead of my regular setup would destroy my business. I have a family to feed, this is my livelihood. What would I do?”
The institute has also produced a web video to champion the cause — and linked the street vending issue with food trucks, an increasingly popular food option that's butted heads with vending laws.
A spokesman for Mayor Kasim Reed said the city hasn't received a copy of the lawsuit and cannot comment.
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