Turns Out, It Isn't So Easy Making It Easier to Let Vendors Sell on Downtown Dallas Streets

Not so fast ...
Here, as promised Friday, is the PowerPoint presented to the city council moments ago concerning efforts to make it easier for street vendors to set up shop in downtown. No surprise: For the most part the council members on the Quality of Life Committee were all for Interim Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata's presentation, though it didn't take long for them to turn a chitchat about downtown development into a larger discussion about getting folks to set up pop-ups around transit oriented developments citywide. At which point an assistant city attorney stepped in and said: Hold up, this is just about rewriting the Central Business District ordinance.

Fine, said Carolyn Davis, "but we gotta change this type of attitude. I support downtown, I really do, but we gotta change the language. Take Mockingbird Station, Royal Lane, there are nice TODs being developed. We continue to talk about business growth, and, yes, downtown needs to be the hub, but you can't talk to 15 council members and not expect them to want the same thing."

Angela Hunt, chair of Quality of Life, wholeheartedly agreed; expect transit-station vending on a committee agenda sooner than later. (And expect Dallas Area Rapid Transit to chime in too.)

But back to downtown.

Sandy Greyson said she can't understand some of the proposed restrictions -- like, say, why just one cart on one location? She wondered: Wouldn't it be more convenient to allow vendors to vend next to each other. And she's concerned about a proposal to allow the selling of plants, fruits and vegetables outside the Dallas Farmers Market. "It just seems like the farmers market is always struggling," she said. "I just wonder if that's a good idea."

Dwaine Caraway seconded that emotion: "I love farmers market, and I want to see how we can better drive folks there, and I don't want to take stuff away."

Davis wants to see a list of would-be vendors. "We can at least say: 'What about T-shirt vendors at Texas-OU?' Does it have to be food?" And she worries about vendors monopolizing "a commodity" downtown. "We need to be careful of that -- we don't have one person looking at every corner in the city and blocking it up."

This isn't about food, though; as Downtown Dallas Inc. told us Friday, this is about everything -- from hot dogs to T-shirts. And Zapata said: The new ordinance will establish a lottery system when multiple vendors apply for the same location.

Also: Right now vendors are given the boot after four years at a single spot. The new proposal eliminates that cap. But there may be some legal issues with that; the City Manager's Office and city attorneys will have to review that rewrite.

The longer the discussion went, the more issues the council members raised -- everything from regulating permits on private versus public property to the number of years vendors would be allowed to stay at a single spot. (Right now, they're given the boot after four years.) "I want to make sure there's no master control mechanism in place that would prohibit what we're trying to do and achieve here," said Caraway.

And Zapata reminded: He'll be back in February with further discussion concerning entertainment permits.

"Sidewalks are public property," said Greyson. "What if the building owner says, 'I don't want a hot dog vendor in front of my building'? Does he have any input in this process?"

Yes, Zapata told her. But: not veto power. Ah -- but what about "distance requirements"? Maybe.

But so much for the December 14 vote before the council: Zapata told Hunt that with the holiday schedule, this won't come before the committee till early next year. Hunt also said she wants to see how New York and Chicago handle this -- not San Antonio or Fort Worth

She promised Downtown Dallas Inc.: "We're gonna get this done as quickly as possible." Just not as quickly as it had hoped. "I think this could have areally great impact on our street life," said hunt. "They're so vacant, and I think it's the regulations" that are to blame. And they'll remain in place till at least the start of 2012.

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Looking at the power point. It looks like I would have to have an entertainment license to let people look through the telescope. Does this mean if a person was playing a saxophone on a street corner for tips would they have to get an entertainment license? Looking at all the rules proposed would discourage venders than encourage.



I checked out Downtown Ft. Worth Saturday night for a viewing location for my Sidewalk Astronomer business. Several people have told me that downtown Fr. Worth has a better night life than the CBD in Dallas. They were right. Lots of people walking around. There seemed to be a good mix of restaurants and entertainment with in easy walking distance. Even with more street venders, that will not change Downtown Dallas that much. What works is a good mix brick and mortar businesses. Downtown Dallas has everything too spread out in districts, like the Warehouse district, the Arts district, etc... Dart is not going to like having food venders near their stations. They will see it as encouraging people to bring food on the trains.

Travis Rex
Travis Rex

If Lower Greenville is an indication of how well the City Council understands ANY of these concepts, it is my estimation that none of them need to be involved in the decision making.Take a vote on a plan put together by someone who knows what they are doing..otherwise it will end in a mess .

Benjamin Abbitt
Benjamin Abbitt

Can we not look at the ordinances used by cites with successful street vendors as a model for our street vending?  These problems have been solved before.


Which cities are you talking about? I'm being serious. The policy of many cities is to just look the other way, and deal with problems as they arise. Rather than trying to structure an ordinance that will keep out most prospective vendors.

Also, has anyone at the city ever seen how the private market works? Lowe's and Home Depot don't open near each other for fun. They open in good locations. They don't look for locations that are far away from competition. The reason those are usually free of competition is because they are crappy locations. Point being, having multiple vendors in a small area makes an area more vibrant and good for business, not less. You can't turn downtown into your little cartel where everything revolves around making sure people do their shopping at the Farmer's Market, or only have one shopping choice per block, etc.


Lowe's and Home Depot don't open near each other for fun.

Along that same line of thinking:

One of my college professors had previously worked for a fast food chain, and he mentioned that the first thing he did when going to a new town to look for expansion opportunities was to open the phone book to see where the McDonald's was. And the second thing was to be pissed off because the guy from Burger King had already ripped the page out.

The point being that even though McDonald's was the dominant fast food chain, the best place to set up competing restaurants was as close as possible to the McDonald's

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