Atlanta police began enforcing a ban on sidewalk vending Thursday, four months after a Fulton County judge struck down the city’s plan to allow vendors to sell T-shirts, snacks and beverages on public property while operating through a private company.
Last December, City Hall officials told Atlanta’s independent vendors that their permits would not be renewed when they expired Dec. 31, and that they would need to go through a company called General Growth Properties if they wished to keep operating.
But the city’s deal with Chicago-based General Growth Properties was voided Dec. 21 by Fulton Superior Court Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua, who said the deal effectively granted General Growth an exclusive franchise in violation of the city charter.
Thursday, a week before the city plays host to the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament, the other shoe dropped as police hit the streets in force before daybreak, telling vendors that they no longer could set up their stands on public property such as sidewalks.
“With the special events happening downtown and around the city, we just want to put on a good face for the beautification of the city,” Atlanta police Deputy Chief Ernest Finley said.
“In the event that we have a vendor or someone that doesn’t want to cooperate, after several warnings, they will face a city ordinance charge, possible fines and jail time,” Finley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Some vendors are coming together to fight the crackdown. The Atlanta Vendors Association believes it will keep vendors from making an honest living.
“For generations, street vending has been a way for people in Atlanta to work hard and climb the economic ladder,” Larry Miller, president of the AVA, said Thursday in a release. “The city has been pushing us around for years and we’re tired of it. This is exactly why we started the AVA and we are going to fight back.”
The group said it plans to launch a campaign against the city crackdown in coming weeks.
Staff writer Bryan Cronan and photographer John Spink contributed to this article.