Street vendors profiting off Kent's lively nightlife — at minimal expense — can breathe a sigh of relief, thanks to Kent City Council.
Council members agreed to reduce a permit cost for downtown street vendors from $1,000 to $500 per year for non-residents. Kent residents looking to sell food and other items from a downtown stand will only have to pay $350 annually.
"I think it's fair," Kent City Councilman Garret Ferrara said.
Council approved the reduction in committee earlier this month, but the final action came last week after council agreed in January to delay a vote on the street vendor regulations. Both previous discussions were lengthy and became heated at times.
During the discussions, council heard from Tywon Dowdell, whose son runs The Dawgfather Grill and BBQ stand for him on weekend nights during warmer months. Dowdell sets up near the gazebo at the corner of West Main Street and Franklin Avenue.
Dowdell was opposed to two aspects of the new vending regulations. The first was the initial $1,000 price for a vending license, and the second that vending spaces as identified by the city would be auctioned to the highest bidder.
During the discussion earlier this month, council members debated the tradeoff involved in designating a parking space to a vendor that would otherwise be used by customers of downtown businesses.
Kent Law Director Jim Silver said city administrators first settled on the $1,000 amount for the class A vending license, which would give the vendor rights to one parking space downtown, by considering the income taxes and property taxes brick-and-mortar businesses pay toward maintenance of downtown parking spaces.
“What is the intrinsic value of that space?" Kent Safety Director William Lillich asked council. "How much heat will you get from businesses downtown, in terms of giving away a number of spaces that potentially could be a parking space for one of their customers?"
Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala called the $1,000 annual fee "cheap rent" for vending to the nighttime crowds downtown.
"Your Franklin (Square) Deli and other places downtown are paying a lot more than that,” Fiala said.
Still, after much discussion, council agreed to cut the fee in half for class A vendor licenses. The issue passed Wednesday with no discussion.
The new legislation puts restrictions and requirements on "peddlers and solicitors" by creating three classes of vendors. Each class requires a license, with the class A bringing the highest price tag. The vendor categories are described as 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.
Specifically, council agreed to hold an auction for the designated vending spaces, which will be available to vendors on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. the next day. Vendors will have to bid for the space they want.
Ferrara said the issue has become focused on the vendors and not the downtown businesses who would potentially lose a parking space near them to a food trailer.
"Their business is being constrained by other vendors who are not participating as much to the city’s revenues through taxes," Ferrara said.