Street vendors looking to profit off Kent's lively nightlife have some new rules — and new costs — for doing business this year.
Kent City Council approved new legislation Jan. 5 putting restrictions and requirements on "peddlers and solicitors" who operate within city limits. Specifically, the new code language identifies operational licenses for three classes of vendors.
The new licenses are defined as categories A, B and C.
- The A license designates fair- or carnival-style vendors who sell food out of a trailer with a license plate that occupies multiple parking spaces.
- The B license designates hand carts that are pushed by hand used on the sidewalk.
- The C license designates door-to-door solicitors.
The new A license costs $1,000 per year and applies to existing businesses such as Gyro Bob and the Dogfather, both of whom typically set up near the corner of Franklin Avenue and Main Street on Thursday through Sunday nights.
The new legislation came about partially as a result of an ongoing competition for space and customers between those two vendors. In the past six months, both vendors have lodged complaints about each other with Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala.
In turn, Kent Economic Development Director Dan Smith said members of Kent Rotary have complained about the two vendors for damaging landscaping around the gazebo near the intersection. The rotary maintains the gazebo.
"The vendors have been less than respectful of the care given to that facility," Smith said.
Kent Law Director Jim Silver said the new regulations will move such vendors off the sidewalk and away from grass and green space into on-street parking spaces. The regulations also will allow Kent police to regulate the operations because each A permit will apply to a specific area in the downtown.
"It will keep trailers off sidewalks, carts off grass and will allow police to regulate where people are and if they’re in the right spot," Silver said. “We will know where people are supposed to be. It clears up 95 percent of the issues we’ve had.”
Silver said both Main Street Kent and the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce supported the new legislation.
Under the new legislation, restrictions on such street vendors applying for the A license include that the units must be self-contained with their own power sources, vending windows must face the sidewalk, and mufflers on electric generators must vent out the roof of a trailer. Only five A licenses will be available downtown, and each location will be auctioned off by the city with the auction guidelines set by the service director's office.
The A locations will be spread out throughout downtown and do not apply to special events such as the Kent Heritage Festival.
The hand-cart vendors licenses will have fewer restrictions, but they will not be permitted close to the doors of businesses and restaurants or fire hydrants. There is no limitation on the number of B licenses to be issued.
The C license limits door-to-door solicitors from operating between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. Exemptions to the C license requirement include members of the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and people under the age of 18 selling for non-profit organizations.
The members of council present for Wednesday's discussion voted unanimously to approve it during committee. Councilwoman Traci Wallach was absent for Wednesday's vote. Council will take a final vote on the new legislation Jan. 19.
Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said she thinks the new, 12-page legislation may need to be amended in the future.
“I think this is really fair," Shaffer said. "I think it’s fair to the bricks-and-mortar people. I think it’s fair to the vendors, although they may find that there’s a lot of hoops to jump through.”