For generations, street vending has been a classic way to succeed with only a strong work ethic and a desire to succeed. It is a path that cities should encourage, particularly in these tough economic times. But rather than fostering entrepreneurship and opportunity, Atlanta is doing its best to smother it.
Larry Miller and Stanley Hambrick own two well-known vending businesses outside the Atlanta Braves stadium. Their businesses create jobs, offer inexpensive snacks and souvenirs to visitors, and make the sidewalks safer by keeping an eye out for fans who need help. But two years ago, Atlanta handed over all public-property vending to a single company—the first program of its kind in the country. Now that company wants to throw Larry and Stanley out of the spots they have worked for decades to build kiosks that rent for almost $20,000 a year. If it does so, Larry and Stanley’s businesses will be destroyed.
Unfortunately, many American cities put up roadblocks that keep would-be vendors from climbing that ladder. In Streets of Dreams, the Institute for Justice reviewed vending laws in America’s 50 largest cities. It found that of those 50 cities, 45 have one or more anticompetitive restrictions on vending. Atlanta has some of the most onerous burdens in the country, and the monopoly Atlanta has created has cost vendors their jobs and threatens to kill vending as a way for ordinary Atlantans to succeed.
To protect the economic liberty of all Georgians, Larry and Stanley have joined with the Institute for Justice to challenge Atlanta’s vending monopoly. This lawsuit, filed on July 28, 2011 in the Superior Court for Fulton County, Georgia, is the second case in the Institute’s National Street Vending Initiative. It argues that Atlanta lacks the power to grant an exclusive vending franchise and that its actions violate the Georgia constitution. A victory will not only free Atlanta’s vending community; it will make other cities think twice before entering into similarly anti-competitive arrangements.
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